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How do I?

Search Strategy Videos from Minitex: These videos from Minitex demonstrate basic search strategies applicable to most databases you will encounter.

How to Search a Database


Searching a database is different than asking a question of a friend. A database doesn't understand context and can't ask a follow-up question in order to understand. Although you might go into a database looking for the answer to a question, to get the best results the question should first be broken down into keywords (or, 'search terms').

Your question is: Are botox injections a valid treatment for a 5-year old with spasticity secondary to cerebral palsy?

Keywords include: botox injections, 5-year old, spasticity and cerebral palsy

It's also beneficial to examine the keywords and decide if a synonym could replace your initial keywords to retrieve better results. In this example, botox is a brand name that might return a few results but using the broader term botulinum toxin will return more results on the subject. 5-year old might also be too specific to retrieve many search results but changing this keyword to children will produce a wider variety of results while still staying within the correct age group. Another option is to leave out the key phrase cerebral palsy since spasticity is the main condition being questioned, adding cerebral palsy potentially adds a unnecessary component to the search. 


Most (if not all) databases offered by the Mildred Johnson Library provide advanced search options for the user. These advanced search options exist to make searching easier. Generally, the advanced search options are provided through a link below the search box on the database page and include options like limiting search results to full text or to a certain date range. Look at your options and let the database do some of the work for you!

Don't Give Up

Sometimes it's frustrating to find the answers to the question you're trying to ask. It's important to understand that it might take several tries before the results you retrieve are the results you want. As you do more database searches, the better you will get at the process. After you conduct a search, look at the results and consider your next move. Did you retrieve too many results? Try adding another keyword or using advanced search options to limit the results. Did you return only a few results? Really think about the keywords and potential synonyms for the next search. Even consider using another database to look for the results best suited for you. 

Remember: if you're having trouble, your instructor or the library staff are here to help you with your research!