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Tarleton State University Libraries Unit 7
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image of person with map   If you are unfamiliar with a database you plan to search, take a few minutes to read the database's online search and usage tips.

These tips are usually available using links labeled "Help" or "Search Tips" on the database's interface.

Reading the database's search and usage tips will tell you which types of refinements are possible and what symbols to use, as well as other useful information. In addition, the help files will tell you if the database defaults to a certain kind of search. This information is useful because it helps you quickly determine which kinds of refinements are already being used and which ones you should add to your searches.

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The complexity of a search and the amount of refinement needed will depend on your information need. Fortunately, databases let users refine searches using many, if not all, of the techniques discussed in Unit 4 (i.e. phrase searches, boolean operators, truncation, and so on).

Also, most databases offer a search interface similar to the Power Search interface in the libraries' catalog. This interface lets users quickly choose boolean operators and the type of search (e.g. author, title, subject, etc.) they wish to use.

This interface may appear as soon as the database is opened. However, in many databases, the interface is accessed by clicking on a link, which is often labeled "advanced search." The following images show examples of this type of search interface from three of the libraries' databases:

an education database
image of ERIC search interface

a multi-disciplinary database
image of JSTOR search interface

a psychology database
image of PsycINFO search interface

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Frequently, databases also provide other ways for users to limit searches. A few standard search limiters are listed and described below:
•  Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed -- limits results to items from academic journals
•  Document Type -- limits results to a specific type of item (for example, abstract, article, book review, editorial, report, and so on)
•  Full Text -- limits results to items that are available online in full text format.
Use this limiter cautiously. Many items are not available online and using this limiter will eliminate citations and the SFX Journal Locator quick link from the results.
•  Publication Date -- limits results to items in a specified time period.
•  Publication Type -- limits results to items from specific types of publications (for example, books, newspapers, periodicals, primary sources, and so on)
•  Language -- limits results to a specific language

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Updated 8/2004