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Finding Articles: Using the Databases

This guide will aid in finding scholarly articles from the databases available at Illinois College.

Database Search Tricks

[see suggestion re: this box on the books page]

Most databases tend to share a number of the same search tricks as you can use in our VuFind catalog.

  • About stop words -- Most databases ignore very common English words and contractions, sometimes called "stop words." Be careful when using stop words in searches as you may get unexpected results (e.g. searching for "Into the Wild" will ignore both "into" and "the" and search only for "wild"). For a full list of stop words ignored by VuFind searches, follow this link. Again, most of these stop words will be in common between VuFind and most databases.
  • Use quotations marks to keep phrases together like "West Side Story" and "social justice". But be careful -- make sure something is really a phrase or you might miss important results. Stop words may still be ignored in exact phrase searches!
  • Use truncation (putting * after the root of a word) to find variations of a word. Librar* finds library, libraries, librarian, and librarians. This can be a very useful tool for expanding a search to include related terms.
  • Using boolean operators -- these are simple words (ANDORNOT) used as conjunctions to combine or exclude keywords in a search, resulting in more focused and productive results. This should save time and effort by eliminating inappropriate hits that must be scanned before discarding.
    • AND -- requires both terms to be in each item returned. If one term is contained in the document and the other is not, the item is not included in the resulting list. (Narrows the search)
    • OR -- either term (or both) will be in the returned document. (Broadens the search) 
    • NOT -- the first term is searched, then any records containing the term after the operators are subtracted from the results. (Be careful with use as the attempt to narrow the search may be too exclusive and eliminate good records). If you need to search the word not, that can usually be done by placing double quotes around it.
  • Using parentheses -- Using the ( ) to enclose search strategies will customize your results to more accurately reflect your topic. Search engines deal with search statements within the parentheses first, then apply any statements that are not enclosed.
    • Example: A search on (smoking or tobacco) and cancer returns articles containing: smoking and cancer; tobacco and cancer smoking; cancer, and tobacco; but does not return smoking or tobacco when cancer is not mentioned. 

Using Specific Databases

We have over 70 databases available for use here at Schewe Library, ranging from general use databases to those focused on a single subject; each one works a little bit differently. Most databases allow you to perform a simple keyword search or limit your query in special ways.

For specific databases, we have instructions that will help you to navigate the following:

Of course, we have many databases than we do sets of instruction. If you are having trouble finding materials in any database in particular,  please contact us at the library! We will be happy to help.


Remember to make good use of search limiters! You can apply limiters to narrow the range of your search by either using a database's "Advanced Search" function (if it has one), or by selecting specific limiters after making a search. Limiters can usually be found on either the left or right side of your search results under a heading reading something like "Refine Results" or "Limit To."

Some common limiters are the "full text" option - which allows you to discover only items where IC users have full text access, and the "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Articles" only check box (which does exactly what you would expect it to do).

Other limiters that may be available include date of publication (often applied as a range), geographic location (useful if you only want results dealing with a certain country or part of the world), publisher or producing company, and many other options.