HDFS 375 - Introduction to Research Methods in HDFS

A guide for students learning to do research in HDFS

Library Research Guide

How to search in databases

Most databases, although they look different, search in similar ways. You can search the databases in many ways to find relevant research, including:

Search Terms

  • If the database has a thesaurus, use it to help you find appropriate subject terms.
  • Use a keyword search for the specific subject you are interested in (race, professional development, leadership, etc...)

Constructing your search

  • Use OR between search terms when you want to find either word, AND when you want both.
  • Try truncating keywords using asterisks: ethnograph* to get ethnography or ethnographic.
  • Put phrases in quotes: “case study” “grounded theory”.

Search Limits

  • Use limits to help find the specific kind of article you want. For example, PsycINFO lets you limit by population or type of study (e.g. quantitative or qualitative).
  • If you need empirical research articles and are having trouble finding them, try adding the words: “research methods”, data, results, discussion, study (not all of these words will appear in every article, so try using just a few or combining them in different ways). 
  • Try adding a keyword for a specific type of methodology -- quantitative, qualitative, ethnography, "case study", etc…
  • Look for a limit for professional journal articles or peer-reviewed articles.


Here is an example of a search using PsycINFO. The first line searches for "cognit*". The asterisk allows it to be a longer word, so we will get cognitive, cognition, etc. On the second line, aging OR gerontology means that it will find sources with EITHER of those words.

PsycInfo search

Getting the articles

Many of the articles you find will be available online. If you don’t see the full text on the database you are searching, use the Get It button to see if the full text of the article is available through another source. If you find a citation to something that we don’t own, most of the time we can borrow it from another library. Please allow yourself enough time to do this! It takes up to 2-5 business days for articles and 5-7 business days for books (or longer if you are off campus). Click on “Request an Interlibrary Loan” on the library home page or “Request from Interlibrary Loan” from the Get It menu. For more information, see our Interlibrary Services page.

Get It in Psyc Info. Alt text reads: Use Get It to see if we have electronic access to the article. If not, the Get It menu will give you an Interlibrary Loan option

Refining Results in Search It

Use Search It, our discovery tool, to locate books, articles, music, movies, e-books, and more. The tool returns results that can be refined by:

  • peer-reviewed journals
  • full-text resources
  • topic
  • creation date

Watch this overview of using Search It.