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Conflict Resolution and Coexistence (COEX)

Library & research resources for the Heller School MA Program in Conflict Resolution and Coexistience

Database tips

Connectors (AND, OR, NOT)

  • Use AND to narrow your search. For example, using "adolescent AND anxiety" will find articles with both terms, giving you fewer, more specific results than searching one term alone.
  • Use OR to broaden your results. Using "adolescent OR teen" will find articles with either term, giving you more results.
  • Use NOT to filter out results with terms you don't need, but be careful. For example "adolescent NOT child" will filter out all articles with the term "child."

Truncation (*) 
The asterisk (*) replaces any number of characters and will find all forms of a word root. For example, "therap*" will find therapy, therapies, therapist, therapists, therapeutic, therapeutically, etc.

Wildcard (#) 
The pound sign (#), or hashtag, replaces extra characters that may appear in alternative spellings. For example, "colo#r" finds both color and colour.

Wildcard (?)
The question mark (?) replaces one character. For example, "ne?t" finds neat, nest, or next, but will not find net.

Search Basics for Academic Databases

Searching academic databases is a bit different from using Google or a search engine. Here are few tricks and tips.

Brainstorm First!
Let's say, you're researching the way women talk to their doctors. This is great topic, but if you just type the phrase -- "The way women talk to their doctors" -- into an academic database, you'll get poor results. Instead, you need to brainstorm key terms and think of solid nouns that describe your topic.

Create Specific Terms and Use Synonyms
Here are ways you can break down this topic:

  • Women, female, gender
  • Communication, conversation, dialogue
  • Doctors, medical professionals, health care providers 

Connect your keywords and phrases with AND, OR, or NOT
The connectors AND, OR, and NOT tell the database how to look up your terms. See the column to the left for explanations on how to use them.

Here's an example of a good search, built with solid search terms:

Subject Terms are Your Friends
When you find a good article, look at the subject terms (also called subject headings). These are tags or labels that an expert assigned to the article that sum up what it's about. Some databases also include author-supplied keywords. These terms are often linked and will lead to similar articles, providing you with even better results. 

Here's what subject terms look like in EBSCO databases:


What is a Library Database?

This video is from RMIT University in Australia. It succintly sums up what a library database is and how you can use one in your research.