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Search for Sources

See below for information about keyword and search term selection and advanced search techniques.

Identifying Keywords

Before you start your search, write your research question and underline the keywords that are the main concepts of your question.

For example: How does violence in the media affect young children?

The databases search keywords and phrases, searching a question will not return many results.

Search something like this: violence AND media AND children

Advanced Search Techniques

Below is information about the following search techniques:

  • Boolean Operators
  • Quotation Marks
  • Field Searching

The Boolean operators are the three terms: AND, OR, and NOT. These terms are used to connect your search terms together to either narrow or broaden your results.


Venn diagram highlighting intersection

Narrows your search results

Tells database ALL search words must be present in records

Example: child AND vaccination


Venn diagram highlighting all

Connects two or more similar concepts (synonyms)

Broadens results, tells database ANY search words can be present in records

Example: vaccination OR immunization

*Remember OR means more*


Venn diagram highlighting one area

Excludes terms from your search

Narrows search results, tells database to ignore concepts that may be included in records

Example: vaccination NOT polio

Quotation marks are used for phrase searching. This narrows your search results by allowing you to identify the order the terms appear. Be careful when using phrase searching, too many terms and you may not get any results.


Copyright free image quotation marks

  • Search a phrase or an exact form of a term using quotation marks.
  • This ensures that the concept will be search for as a whole and will not be picked apart by the search engine.
  • Example: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg"

Databases separate information into fields. With field searching, you can tell the database where to find your search terms. Searching in one specific area of a record is called field searching. 

Common fields to search in databases include:

Author Try searching the author's name. Often authors may write more than one article about the same topic.

Type in words that you want to appear in the titles of your search results. By limiting a word to the Title Field, your search results will be very focused. (Pro tip: If the word is in the title, it is probably a major focus of the article!)

Subject Limit your search results to records that have been assigned a specific subject heading. Subject headings are preferred terms used in a database to describe a concept.
Source / Journal Know the title of a newspaper, magazine or journal you would like to use? Search within a specific publication.

Screenshot select a filed ebscohost databases

Search terms will appear in the article title:

Screenshot TI Title select a field

*Try searching in the article title when searching for newspaper articles.*

Search terms will appear as subject tags for article:

Screenshot of select a field SU subject terms

Search terms will appear in the publication title:

Screenshot of select a field SO journal