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.