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Search for Articles: Subject-Specific Databases

When to Use Databases

A subject-specific database is useful if Internet searching or Library Search are returning too many irrelevant results. Subject-specific databases allow for refinement and filtering that is more relevant to your subject area. 

Advanced Database Search Strategies


Subject terms describe what the content is about. Searching with subjects will retrieve fewer results than keyword searching, but they are potentially more relevant. 

Each database has its own subject terms. Browse for subjects in the database that match your topic. Look for a button or link that says Subjects, Index, or Thesaurus. Check the Help screens for how to add these to your search.

Another way is to look at the Subject or Descriptor field in a highly relevant result to note the terms used. The subject term should be clickable to run a new search with that subject.

The subject index is linked from the tap navigation on a database. Subjects also appear in the individual records.


Combining Terms with AND, OR, NOT

These Boolean operators connect your search words together to either narrow or expand your list of results.

  • AND will retrieve results that use BOTH terms, leading to fewer results.
  • OR will retrieve results that use EITHER term, leading to more results.
  • NOT will retrieve results that use the first term but not the second, leading to fewer results.
  • The order in which the database reads these operators is first NOT, then AND, finally OR.








Truncation broadens your search results to include various word endings and spellings.

To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol * at the end. For example:

  • child* = child, child's, children, children's, childhood...
  • genetic* = genetic, genetics, genetically...

Truncation symbols may vary by database. Check the database's Help screen.



Wildcards substitute a symbol for one letter of a word. Some, but not all, databases use wildcards.

This is useful if a word is spelled in different ways, but still has the same meaning. For example:

  • wom!n = woman, women
  • colo?r = color, colour