The library subscribes to many different databases. Some are quite large and cover multiple disciplines, others are smaller and more subject specific. Though the homepages of each database may look a little different, the search process is largely the same. This page will give you an overview of how to search any database for different types of articles, including those that are peer reviewed.
First, you need to determine which database or databases to search. Sometimes your professor or a librarian will even recommend a few to the class. No single database contains every article published on a subject, you may have to search more than one to find what you need. That's totally normal! Ask a librarian for help if you are having trouble.
1. Navigate to the library homepage.
2. Click "Search Subject Area Databases Directly"
This will take you to a full list of the library's databases. You can also narrow them by subject using links on the left side of the page under "Specialized Resources."
Select your database. If you are unsure or just beginning the search process, a large, multidisciplinary database like ProQuest Central may be the most helpful. If you are doing specialized research, find one that looks the most related to your discipline. For example, Anthropology students can select AnthroSource or Anthropological Literature.
Determine your keywords and enter them into the search box. For the best results, break your research question or topic down into 2 or 3 key concepts or phrases to use in your search.
If your keyword is actually a phrase, put it in quotation marks so the database knows to return results that exactly match the words and order. This chart contains a few examples of how to narrow down your topic into keywords and phrases:
|Does exposure to violent media affect children's behavior?||violence, media, children|
|How are food deserts related to income inequality?||"food desert", income|
|How does stress impact academic achievement?||stress, "academic achievement"|
Use AND, OR, or NOT to connect individual search terms. Most databases default to "AND" connectors, and you can leave those or use them in addition to "OR" or "NOT" if they work best for your search. There is an accessible PDF version of the chart below at the bottom of this box.
An example keyword search with both AND and OR operators looks something like this:
"food desert" OR "food insecurity" AND
income OR wealth
The bigger the database, the more specific you should be to really get to the articles you want. If the database is smaller, one or two keywords may be enough.
When you are done entering keywords, click "search."
Once you have your page of search results, you can spend some time narrowing them down using limiters, usually on the left side of the page. Depending on the database, you may be able to limit to peer reviewed or scholarly articles, newspaper articles, magazine articles, etc., as well as videos, podcasts, and radio transcripts. You can also pick date ranges and display your results either chronologically or by relevance. Try some limiting and see what works best for you and your assignment's requirements.
Skim the first one or two pages of results and find a title that interests you. It will look something like this:
You can see that this particular database also highlights the keywords I used in my search to help me find a relevant result. No matter what database you are using, your options will include a link to the article's abstract and other information about it, and a link to locate its full text. The information about the article is also called a "detailed record." They contain an abstract, important keywords, and publication information. Always use the detailed record to decide if you want to read an article! It is there to help you and save you time. It looks like this:
Sometimes, the full text of the article is available right in the database. If full text is not immediately available, you will have the option to click "Find a Copy @ UMassD Libraries:
When you click it, one of three things will happen:
1. You will be redirected to the full text of the article
2. You will be redirected to a link to another database that has the full text of the article:
3. You will be able to request the article using interlibrary loan if the library does not own it. You need to log in with you myUmassD info to see the interlibrary loan link:
After you sign in, you can click Interlibrary Loan:
When you request an article using interlibrary loan, you can expect to receive it within 24-48 hours. It's always good to do your research in advance in the event that the perfect article is a day or two away! Interlibrary loan is free to students, and there is no limit to how many articles you request.
Most databases are equipped with tools to let you cite, save, print, and email an article. This option is usually located on the detailed record page or the full text page and looks a little different depending on the database:
Clicking the "Cite" option will open up a list of standard citation styles. Copy and paste the one your professor requires into your bibliography or works cited. When you click "Email," you can send yourself both the article in full text as well as the citation. Again, choose the format needed for your assignment.
Congrats! You're on your way to becoming an expert researcher. Whether this is your first search or what feels like your millionth, you can use this page to guide you through the process. If you have any questions throughout the process, your librarians are here to help you! We can be reached via email and on chat, generally Monday-Friday, 9-5. Any emails received after hours will be answered on the next workday.
This page was created and is maintained by Rachel Baum, Social Sciences & Data Services Librarian.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.