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Database Searching

Using the Library Catalog  (close captioned version)

Because health science is a broad discipline that spans multiple academic subjects such as medicine, psychology and current events, there are many methods of accessing scholarly articles, books and web resources. Use the following search techniques and recommended databases to gather information about your topic.

Database Search Tips

Keyword Searching is a good way to begin researching a topic in a subject database (articles) or the library’s catalog database (mainly books & videos). With this type of searching the database will try to match your terms with article or book titles, abstracts or chapter & section titles.

  • Use “OR” to broaden your search. This will find articles with either one or both terms (good for synonymous & related terms; works well for acronyms).

Example: HDL Cholesterol OR Good fats This will retrieve all citations that reference either phrase.

  • Use “AND” to narrow your search (in most cases you can do this by adding individual terms & concepts to separate search boxes)

Example: Trans Fatty Acids AND CholesterolThis will retrieve only those citations that contain both the phrase “Trans Fatty Acids” and the word “cholesterol.” If both are not in the record, you will not retrieve it.

  • Use truncation. The * is the truncation symbol. When you use it, the computer will search for other natural endings on the word. For example, if you search parent*, you will retrieve parents, parenting, parenthood, etc.
  • Set limits. Most databases allow for different types of limit-setting, a technique that allows you “weed out” inappropriate material. Some limitations you can place:
    • Language (English, Spanish, etc.)
    • Peer-reviewed or Reference Available
    • Publication type (journal, book, conference proceeding, etc.)
    • Date of publication

Subject Searching takes advantage of database-assigned descriptive headings to increase the power of your search. Subject terms are assigned to describe what something is about, whether or not your keywords appear in the titles or abstracts of your search results. When you find a good subject heading, click on it to find like materials.Subject or Thesaurus terms vary according to which database you are using, but are usually accessible from a menu option at the top of the screen. In EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, CINAHL & Business Source Premier) headings will appear in a yellow column to the left of your search results.

Recommended Databases (access all here)

  • PubMed
  • Academic Search Premier
  • PsychINFO
  • Proquest Newspapers

To Find Books

Use the  library catalog, and search by:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Keyword
  • Library of Congress Subject Headings such as:
    • Health Services Administration
    • Medical Economics
    • Medical Care—United States
    • Community Mental Health Services
    • Medical Policy—United States

If we don’t have a title you need (or you want to see what other academic & public libraries have in your topic area) remember to repeat your search in LINK+, our accelerated interlibrary loan service. We can usually get items in 3-4 days.

To Find Multimedia (for presentations or research)


  • Library Catalog: Limit your keyword search to material type–video. Also, run a keyword search on “streaming video” to see our collection of streaming videos, some health related.
  • PBS: Some PBS programs, notably Frontline and NOVA, offer free streaming, which allows you to watch complete programs online. These high-quality documentary series may offer relevant programming for your research topic.
  • Blinkx: The video search engine combs through many online video collections from from networks to youtube.


  • Flickr Creative Commons: Find images for presentations here. Creative Commons licenses give you permission to use images in accordance with any restrictions.
  • Wikimedia Commons: Large, open-source database of user-contributed images and other media files.


Database Cheat Sheet
Class Handout w/web recommendations
Search Activity

Last Updated 02.13.12

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