Search Basics

Basic tips & techniques for more effective searching

Database Searching Basics

The search function in most databases will vary in how they are used based on how they are designed but there are some basic search functions and features that will likely be common to most of them. Understanding the basics of searching will help you create a successful search stategy that you will be able to use across most tools.

There are some common "rules of thumb" that be helpful to understand and the tabs above will help you understand them and learn to use them more effectively.

  • Use quotation marks " " to specify a certain string or words or exact phrase [see Phrase Searching]
  • The more commonly used truncation/stemming symbols are * and ? [see Truncating or Stemming]
  • Most databases use an implied AND as the default Boolean term or operator [see Boolean Operators]

Stop words are common words that occur frequently and are not helpful to a search.  They are typically ignored and therefore not searched by most search engines or are filtered out.  Specific stop words within a a search tool can often be found in the Help area but some of the most common ones include:

a, an, and, are, as, at, be, by, for, from, in, is, of, on, the, was, were, with 

The best way of avoid having them removed is to use them as part of a phrase search and include them in the quoted phrase - for example - "The Who"

Research & Instruction Librarians