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English & Creative Writing Resources: Selecting and Searching Databases

Resources in support of studies in English language and literature

Choosing a Database

 Now you need to choose the right database(s).  Some things to consider:

1. What's the subject area of your topic?

Some of the databases cover many subjects (multidisciplinary) while others cover specific subjects (medicine, business, psychology, etc.).  Think about your topic; is it a psychology issue, an education issue, or both?  When you get to the database home page, think about the appropriate subject area for your topic.

2. What are you looking for? Which database is best?

What kind of source do you need:  Statistics about a country? A peer-reviewed journal article?  A marketing report? Or maybe a photograph of an particular work of art.  We have all of that, so be sure to read the database descriptions. The descriptions give you an idea of what a database contains, whether it's multidisciplinary journal articles, statistics, art work, etc.

Some Commonly Used Databases in English Studies

The following commonly used databases are full-text.

Tips for Searching Databases

Enter your keywords

  1. plurals and truncation (child* includes articles with child OR childhood OR children)
  2. synonyms (global warming OR climate change)

Search Tips

  • Mix and match keywords – look for the right combo
  • Use the subjects listed with each article as keywords to expand your search.
  • Look for the References at the end of an article to find more sources


When searching in the databases, you can get better results by using 3 words:

  • AND
  • OR
  • NOT

they are referred to as Boolean Operators


If you use AND between words in your database search, you are telling the database: "All my results must contain these words."


If you use OR between these words, you are telling the database: "All my results must contain at least one of these words."  OR is really good to use when you have synonyms that want to use.  For example a search on teenagers might be: teenagers OR adolescents OR young adults OR teens


Use NOT if you want to exclude words from your search.  Be careful though, you might still exclude good results.  I don't suggest using NOT in your searches.

Once you find articles

  • Put them in a temporary folder
  • Email them
  • Save the PDFs
  • Export to Refworks


R1-c of Hacker' Guide.




Boolean Operators

(GaStateULibrary, 2009, June 15)

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