Database Searching vs. Internet Searching
Research is a process, and you often have to redo searches a few times until you get the right results. Use the following tips to get the best sources and the best use of your time.
Organization of Results
Results are typically sorted by date (most recent first), not relevance. That means if you get five hundred results, you can't just take the first few, like you would with Google. You need to tell the database more specifically what you're looking for.
Subject headings are the database version of tags that link all of the items that are about the topic. If you only get one result and think there should be more, go into the record and look at what subject headings were assigned to it. If you're having trouble finding anything at all, pick something that is close to your topic, and do the same. Clicking on those subject headings will lead you to other resources that are about the same topic.
Boolean operators are used in a search query to define the relationships between words.
Narrow search and retrieve records containing all of the words it separates: mouse and mice
Broaden search and retrieve records containing any of the words it separates: mouse or mice or rat
Narrow search and retrieve records that do not contain the term following it: mouse not rat
Group words or phrases when combining Boolean phrases and to show the order in which relationships should be considered: e.g., '(mouse or mice) and (gene or pseudogene)
Searching by Name
When searching for a person, always search by LastName, FirstName (eg, "Dickens, Charles")—in many databases, you will not get any results at all if you type in the first name first.
The default for searching is a full-text search, but most databases also allow you to search for a term in a particular field. If you search for "Harry Potter" and get thousands of hits, try limiting that search to the subject, abstract, or title field to eliminate all of the times someone just happens to mention Harry Potter in an article about something else entirely.