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University Library

Database Searching Skills

The University Library has a wide range of databases which give access to a variety of research information. The databases differ in the kind of information they cover, and the ways in which they can be searched, but there are some key features to look out for which should help you retrieve the results you want.

Database Searching: tips and features to look for:

  • Have a plan for your search before you log on to a database. See Planning a Search.
  • Check the coverage of the database by looking at the information provided in the detailed library catalogue record of the database.
  • Check any online help screens about how to search in the database.
  • Does the database search only look for keywords i.e. only the terms which you type in? If so, you might have to think of alternative terms and spellings to add to your search.
  • Can you use truncation e.g. using * to indicate different word endings? For example: method* = method, methods, methodology, methodical, etc.
  • Does the database have subject headings or a thesaurus for searching rather than just keywords?
  • Can you combine search terms using Boolean operators (AND, OR, etc.)?
  • Can you limit your search e.g. by date of publication, language, publication type?
  • ConneXions (PDF guide) provides links to full-text options within databases.

Example Tutorials

The tutorials above provide guidance on using a range of search tools in the Web of Science database, from a basic overview and search tips through to citation searching, creating alerts, viewing your search history and other guides. The content of these training videos is not provided by Durham University Library.