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How to Use the Library's Databases

Introduction

You need to find scholarly articles on your topic, but you’re unsure where to start. Enter Academic Search Complete!

With its citations and full text from over 5000 scholarly journals covering the sciences, social scienes, and humanities, It’s a great general database that has information on nearly any topic you might choose.

Some of the following instructions are particular to Academic Search Complete, while others can be adapted to other online databases the Mack Library offers.

Searching 101

The database opens in the Advanced Search screen. Here you can combine multiple terms using the provided search boxes. You can also choose where the database is to search for the terms: in the article’s title, author, keyword (the entire article) or in the assigned Subject Terms (more on that later). If you scroll down the page, ASC provides you a list of other ways you can limit your results (e.g. by date, full-text, or publication type). 

Main screen of Academic Search Complete Database

 

Once you type in your search terms and choose your limiters, you click the search button and the database will bring up your results in a screen that looks something like this:

Image of Academic Search Complete Results List

 

In the center is a list of the results, sorted by date (the default). Along the left side are the various subject terms assigned to the articles. The database also provides you with the opportunity to apply additional limiters.

The results entry contains the citation information for the article (title, journal name, date, etc), along with an abstract. If the database contains a full-text version of the article, then there will also be a link to it (either in html format, pdf, or both).

Advanced Search Strategies

You can use these search functions in Academic Search Complete to help you search more efficiently. 

  • Boolean Operators allow you to combine search terms
    • ​AND combines two search terms (e.g. birds AND bees)
    • OR generates results that contain either of the terms (e.g. dogs OR canines)
    • NOT excludes one of the terms from your results (cats NOT musical)
    • You can string Boolean phrases together using parenthesis [(cats NOT musical) AND (dogs OR canines)]
  • ​Quotation marks tell the database to search for only that specific phrase. For example, a search for “natural selection” will generate results with that specific phrase, however a search for natural selection will generate results that contain natural AND selection somewhere in the entry, not necessary side by side.
  • Truncation allows you to search for variances in terms. Astro* gives you results which can include the terms, astronomer, astronomy, astrology, astronaut, etc. Each database uses it's own symbols for truncation so check out the help for more information.

 

Subject Terms

When an article is entered into its database, it is assigned subject terms to make it easier to find. They are standardized within the database which means you can find most the articles on a topic in one place. 

 

Example of Subject terms from catalog

 

 

 

You can search the subject terms either by choosing that option from the drop down menu at the top of the page, or you can browse through the subject terms by choosing the subject terms link at the very top of the page.

 

 

Subject Terms search in Academic Search Complete