Subject Guides

Occupational Therapy

Database Searching

Library databases are not free sources. The information in the databases is well-organized, carefully selected, and in many cases, peer-reviewed. This gives you more control over your searching, allowing you to broaden or focus your search as necessary. Google instead searches the surface of the open web, making it difficult to find reliable quality information.

Database searching is different from Google searching. Below are some tips for searching databases. 

  • Break your topic into key words or phrases
    • Combine with AND to get fewer results (Diabetes AND exercise)
    • Combine with OR to get more results (Dementia OR Alzheimer's)
  • Try different searches using a different combination of your words and phrases
  • As you skim your results look for new words, phrases, and ideas that relate to your topic
  • Keep trying! Searching often takes time and requires trying multiple searches in a few different databases
  • Ask for help

When searching in databases you can use limits (normally on the left or right of your search results page, or in the advance search) to focus on specific format.

Some databases include links to the full text article (look for a pdf or html link). If there is no full text follow the  link to automatically search other Library databases, or to request it through Inter-Library Loan.

For additional information on finding articles see the "Finding Articles" Guide. See below for some database searching techniques. 

Search Tips

1.  Think about your search strategy.  This will save you time in the long run.  Break your topic into concepts and keywords.

Example: If you are interested in "how washing hands before operating reduces infection," break that into concepts and think of different ways to express those concepts (synonyms, scientific names, etc.):

Image showing the an example of breaking a topic into concepts with example keywords for each concept.


2. Use Database language to search.

Boolean logic (AND, OR, NOT) and other database search "language" can allow you to have more control over your search. See the table below for the most common "tricks" that work in most databases.

Most databases also have a help section to explain how to best search in that particular database. Look for that.