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A Guide to the Research Process

Search for Sources

What sources should you use to complete your research paper? Where should you find those sources, and how do you find them? This page will teach you about the best sources to use for your assignment, Boolean searching and useful database searching tips.

The search box on the library home page, Spartan Search, looks through all library databases. The A to Z Database link gives you a list of each of those databases and resources, including certain highly credible resources from around the web. The list can be sorted by subject area or material type.

Many of the library's databases are subject-based, and searching one allows you to use advanced search options specific to the discipline. For example, CINAHL (a nursing database) can limit results to articles written by a nurse.

Spartan Search Box:
Subject Specific Databases:
  • any topic that is multi-disciplinary or doesn't clearly belong to one field
  • general topics
  • for browsing when you are just beginning your research
  • any time you are not finding results in other databases
  • topics within a set discipline
  • specific and in-depth topics
  • for finding more obscure information
Did You Know?

EBSCO is one database vendor that you will use often during your time at AU. The library also has access to other database vendors like ProQuest and JSTOR. Use the vendor drop down list on the A-Z Database to view these options.

Improve your search results with Boolean Operators. The three Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT can be found under advanced search or typed directly into a search box. Placing a Boolean Operator between your keywords will allow you to narrow or expand your search.

AND narrows your results. For example, if you are researching the use of music therapy in pain management use AND to find articles that combine your two keywords.

Pain Management AND Music Therapy

Boolean AND Example

OR broadens your results. Suppose you are still choosing a topic. You are interested in pain management as well as music therapy. You would like to see articles on either, even if they do not overlap.

Pain Management OR Music Therapy

Boolean OR Example

NOT eliminates a specific term from your results. If you are interested in alternative treatments for pain management, but are not interested in articles on music therapy, you can use NOT to eliminate those results.

Pain Management NOT Music Therapy

Boolean NOT Example

Learn More

Video from Carnegie Vincent Library
  • Boolean Operators (See Above)
  • Truncation
    • Truncation allows you to search multiple terms with the same root at once.
      • Child* searches for Child, Children, Childhood
      • Politic* searches for Politics, Political, Politician
  • Limiters
    • Many databases offer limiters. These can be selected either prior to or after you enter your search terms. Depending on the database, limiters can be found on the left hand or right hand side of the screen. Some examples include, Full Text Only, Publication Date limiters and Peer-Reviewed.
  • Field Searching
    • Most databases default to a keyword search. This means that the database is looking for your keyword everywhere, in the title, the abstract, the articles full text, etc. Changing the search from keyword to title can help you improve the relevancy of your results
  • Phrase Searching
    • If your search term is multiple words, it can be useful to add quotation marks around it. This let's the database know to look for those words together and in that order. This can be limiting because we can phrase the same concept so many different ways, so be use this tool carefully.
  • Citation Chasing
    • Find an article you like? Review the reference list to see if any of the articles listed are relevant to your search
Need More Tips?

Check out our tutorials page to view tutorials and videos about find resources in the library's databases.