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Sep 29th, 2021

Librarian’s Pro Tips: Advanced Database Searching Research Guide

Research guides are a hidden gem of any library’s collection. Research guides, also referred to as “libguides,” are guides created by librarians that contain very helpful information when it comes to conducting research. Research guides come in several different forms and can serve many different purposes depending on the type of guide you are accessing. At HPU Libraries, we have guides that can assist you with finding research materials, citation construction, navigating copyright, creating 3D prints at the media center, and much more. This blog will focus on our brand new “Advanced Database Searching” research guide; click here to access this research guide and, to view all our other helpful research guides, click here.


Navigating the Guide

This guide is designed to give you simple, yet effective, strategies on constructing relevant search queries when completing your research. The guide covers topics such as keywords vs. subject headings, Boolean operators, field searching, and much more! Using this or any other research guide is very simple. To navigate a research guide, just click on the tabs located at the top of the guide itself. These tabs will lead you to the different types of content housed in the guide.


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By using these tabs in this guide, you will be able to access tips and strategies that will (hopefully) make the research process more engaging and stress free.


Highlights of the Guide

Research is not often a fast or simple process; many times, you may find a couple of good sources that work for you and then you may get stuck before finding other helpful sources. One of the best strategies you can use before starting your research is knowing some tips and tricks that can help you find more relevant results quickly; this will save you both time and energy during the research process.


Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT)

When doing your research, you have most likely used Boolean operators without even knowing you are doing it. Boolean operators are great ways of creating more specific searches that can give you more relevant search results. The Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT; AND widens your search results, OR will narrow your search results, and NOT will exclude any irrelevant terms from your search.


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Boolean operators can also be used in the catalog as well; an example of the above search in the catalog would look like this:

  • King Henry VIII AND Anne Boleyn

Using these operators in the databases or catalog will give you a much more effective set of search results than a standard search.


Field Searches

Field searching is very useful when you are trying to locate very specific materials, such as a book or article by a specific author. Field searches tell a database or the library catalog that you only want to see results related to a specific field. Several common fields include author (au), title (ti), and subject (su). As an example, if you are only interested in research articles and books written by C.S. Lewis, you can type in the following search into the catalog or a database to find ONLY books and articles written by Lewis.

  • au:C.S.Lewis

It is crucial to remember that each database may use a different set of field codes so make sure to look at the “Search Tips” or “Help” screens in a database for specific codes.


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This simple strategy will save you from reviewing hundreds of thousands of results that may be of little or no use to your work.

These highlights are only some of the helpful strategies that can be found in this guide. Other helpful tips include reading abstracts of scholarly works (great for content summaries, keywords, and additional sources) and saving the right link (imperative when it comes to citing your work). For more helpful research tips and tricks, please review this guide or ask a librarian!

-Blog post by Bryan Nicholls, Evening Librarian

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