Database Search Bar Tips

Unlike internet search engines, most electronic databases (like EBSCO or ProQuest) require precision in the way you structure searches in order to get the results you need. This guide lists the most common commands that are used in database search bars with examples of how they are used.

Narrow your search

Use the word AND (in capital letters) to narrow your search by combining search terms.
Example: bison AND vaccination

Expand your search

Use the word OR (in capital letters) to expand your search. This is particularly useful when your search term has one or more synonyms.
Example: teenager OR adolescent

Search for a phrase

Use “quotes” to tell a database that you want to search for a phrase instead of the individual search terms.
Examples:
“global warming”
“physical education”
“family practice”

Exclude a term from your search

Use the word NOT (in capital letters) to exclude a term from your search results.
Example: “higher education” NOT “community college”

Search for alternate word endings

Use an asterisk * at the end of a word to get the database to search for alternative word endings.
Examples:
politic* searches for politic, politics, political, politically
embry* searches for embryo, embryos, embryonic
text* searches for text, texts, texted, texting

Use parentheses to group terms

Use (parentheses) to create more complex search strings. Parentheses group terms together.
Examples:
education AND (teenager OR adolescent)
(jaguars AND speed) NOT (cars OR automobiles)

Mix it up!

With these basic commands, there are many possibilities. If you are not getting search results, you may have made your search too specific or need to revise your search terms. Here are some further examples of mixing and matching commands to get better results.
Examples:
text* AND “drunk driving”
(football NOT soccer) AND equipment
acid* AND (ocean OR sea) AND temperature