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DHYG Quick References

Scholarly Databases Don't Search Like Google

Google is awesome, but using scholarly databases can help us to quickly find desired information with more focused results and less concern about information reliability. There are many ways you can get better results in databases (filters, keywords, truncation, etc.), but a key thing to know is that many scholarly databases look for your EXACT KEYWORDS.  See the box below on Brainstorming so you can help the scholarly databases find your EXACT KEYWORDS by giving the database more words that mean the same thing!

Search Strategies if Retrieving Too Few Results:

Brainstorming other keywords that mean the same thing tends to be the key if you are retrieving too few results.  Try using synonyms or variant forms of the same word (singular or plural forms) connected with the word or to have the database pick up word A or word B or word C.  A couple of examples are below, or see the worksheet below for help:

Brainstorming Examples to Retrieve More Results

Examples of brainstorming synonyms / word variants and using the word or to get more results:

Example 1:

gas or gasoline or fuel or petrol 

Example 2: 

cow or cows or cattle or bovine

Search Strategies if Retrieving Too Many Results or Off-Topic Results

  1. Use quote marks to have words searched side-by-side that should not be broken apart, for example, "primary care provider"
  2. Add additional keywords to your search if retrieving too many results, for example, "heart attacks" and diagnosis
  3. Try to restrict your keywords to the document title if retrieving too many results. If your keywords are in the document title, the document is more likely to be on-topic.  Most databases have an Advanced Search that will have a limit that says Document Title or Title - give this trick a try!


When in a webpage, word document, or PDF document, if you do not see the key text you are looking for, click on CTRL F.  This will bring up a find box that allows you to type in a keyword of interest, and it will jump you to that keyword in the text.  See the excellent video tutorial linked below on using CTRL F to find keywords.

A handy CTRL key trick to jump to words of interest