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LEAD 502 - Developing Scholars Seminar

Searching Tips: Databases

Searching these resources is different from searching the Internet. K-State Libraries pays to subscribe to the databases; they are not found in an online search. Their content is created and maintained by various companies and organizations.

  • Keywords: Before you begin, break your topic into key concepts; think about the terminology/keywords you wish to search for and possible synonyms
  • Advanced Search: Look for the "Guided Search" or "Advanced Search" options so that you have more search boxes.
    • AND = both concepts must be present, helps limit the search (Ex. stormwater AND management)
    • OR = great for synonyms  (Ex. "universal design" OR "inclusive design")
    • NOT = exclude an unrelated term  (Ex. "nigel coates" NOT "book review")
  • Subject Headings: Look for "Subject Headings," "Subjects," "Keywords" or "Descriptors" to help narrow your search. Different databases may recognize different terms. As you find these tags, construct your search using the language/terminology of that database. 
  • GET IT: No full text available? Click on the "Get It" button to search for the article in our database subscriptions. If it's not there, it will look for a print copy available on campus or through Interlibrary Loan
  • Truncation: Use "truncation": teen* searches for "teen", "teens", "teenager", "teenagers", etc. by adding all possible endings.
  • Wildcard: Use "wildcard" (question mark inside a word): wom?n searches for "women" or "woman"
  • Help: When you're in a database, look for its “Help” section


Good keywords are essential to good research. Develop a list of keywords before you start searching.

To start the list, ask yourself two questions:

1. What do I know about my topic?

2. What do I want to know about my topic?

Write the answers to those questions using single words or simple phrases. These become your keywords.

Developing this list is an iterative process. Your list of keywords may change as you learn more information through your research.

Wildcards and Operators

Operators AND, OR - allow you to combine terms and minimize searches

Use OR for synonyms:

effect  OR  influence OR impact
hog OR  pig OR  swine

This query tells the database that at least one of the words per line must appear in your results.

Use AND to combine terms:

effect  OR  influence OR impact
AND  hog OR  pig OR  swine

To understand the concept, click on the image
below to launch the interative Boolean Machine.

Image of The Boolean Machine

Wildcards and Truncation (*) The asterisk is generally used as a truncation symbol when placed at the end of a word stem.

effect  OR  influence OR impact
AND    hog* OR  pig* OR  swine

Be careful not to shorten the word stem so that results are not relevant.  If our example is category, try categ*, instead of cat*, to get category, categories, categorical, etc.