Think about your topic for your project and ask yourself the following questions.
Then consider the types of sources that you need for your research:
The answers to these questions will provide valuable information that will help you select the best databases for your topic and develop your search strategy.
Selecting the best database for your needs can make a difference between search success and failure. When you select a database, be sure to review the database descriptions and consider the following:
What years does the database cover?
Knowing the dates of coverage for the database is very important and can prevent you from selecting the wrong database. Some databases contain only newer articles, while others only index older publications. A few dabases, like JSTOR, have an embargo which prevents you from searching specific years of a publication. In some cases, if you need early issues of a journal, you may need to use a print index.
The advanced or guided search option will provide you with much more flexibility in designing your search. It allows you to select specific fields to search, such as author or title, and will often provide help constructing your search.
The Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT can help you combine concepts, as well as helping you to expand or narrow your search.
If you find an article on the topic you are interested in, look at the subject terms or descriptors that are listed in the record for the item. These terms are standard within the database, and often can help you locate more articles on that topic.
For example, if you are looking for articles on African Americans in Chicago politics and enter "African Americans" as a search term, you will likely get some results. But looking at the subject terms within some of the records, you may notice that the database uses the descirptor "blacks". Using that as a subject/descriptor may expand the number of search results.
Some databases, such as APAPsycNet or Medline, will have a thesaurus feature built in the database, which will point you to the best subject terms. Take advantage of these features when they are available.
Most databases provide an option to limit your search. These limits can include language, type of resource, publication date, and full text only. If you find yourself getting too many hits, or would like to eliminate certain types of records, set your limits and try again.
Most databases provide an option to use wildcards or truncation. This will help you search variations of words that may be important for your search.
These symbols can vary from database to database, so check the "Help" or "Search Tips" options in the database you are searching to find the best one for your needs.