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Research Paper Basics: Searching Databases

Phrase Searching

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks keep words together as phrases for most databases. However, not all databases or search engines recognize this method. Some databases or search engines use parentheses or single quotes instead. Check the Help page if you're not sure. 

Credit: North Carolina State University Libraries on YouTube

Boolean Operators

the words and, or not

Boolean operators or connectors are typically what you use in an Advanced Search of GALILEO and other databases including the library catalog.

The operators are AND, OR, and NOT. Use them to broaden or narrow your search.

  • AND – Narrows your search. All search terms following the AND must be in the record.
  • OR – Broadens your search. Either search term must appear in the record.
  • NOT – Narrows your search by excluding or ignoring words. The first search term must be present, but the search term following NOT will not appear in the record.

Parentheses can be used to group Boolean operators. Watch this video by Western University library for a demonstration:



Most databases have limiters (sometimes called filters) to help you narrow the focus of your search. These tools are often in a column or box on the left side of your search results. The heading might say something like Refine Results or Tweak My Results, with check-boxes or drop-down menus. These options allow you to limit your search by selecting these options and more:

  • Full-Text
  • Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals
  • Publication Date Range
  • Limit by Type or Format (Journals, books, etc.)
  • Limit by Location 

What is a database?

What are Databases and Why You Need Them by Yavapai College Library on YouTube

Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies

Truncation & Wildcards

Truncation and Wildcard symbols

Truncation uses the asterisk (*) to help you broaden your search to include words with various endings or spellings.

   Example: Use the asterisk and the root word educat* to get educate, educated, education, educational, educator.

Wildcards also use symbols to help you find variations of words.

   Example: Use wom?n to get woman or women, or use col?r to get color or colour.

Truncation and wildcard symbols vary by database or search engine, but common ones include *, !, ?, or #. Check the database’s Help page before you search.

Credit: How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Modifiers "",*,() by McMaster Libraries on YouTube.


Most databases have tools to help you manage your research. Tools may include:

  • Permalink to help you navigate back to information

  • Citations with options to cite the source in various styles

  • Save to allow you to save to a file or to a folder within the database (if you have created an account)

  • Email so you can send it to yourself or someone else