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SW 498C- Library Guide

Article and Journal Databases

Search Strategy Example

Searching Databases

SocINDEX and Academic Search Complete are databases provided by the same vendor, EBSCOhost.  Search them simultaneously.

Step One:  Identify the topic and consider two to three concepts that directly relate to the topic.  Use the chart below as a guide.


I am interested in policies about mental health services for children who are abandoned.


abandoned children 

mental health services

policies (government and social policies) 

Consider alternative keywords for the concepts, for example:

Homeless Children

Foster care services



child OR infant abandonment

child custody

(rights of children) 



child neglect 






Step Two:  Develop a search strategy using the keywords and/or phrases.  Less is more; start with a few keywords and if necessary build a more comprehensive search. For example: 

"homeless children" AND health services 

Step Three: Recognize that databases have similar features, such as “limiters” or ways to narrow the search results (e.g., date of publication, peer-reviewed journal, and full-text).   Apply limiters if necessary.


Search tips 



Quotation marks

Exact phrase searching


Combine terms


Omit or ignore a term


Expand the search to include either or both terms


Structure a Boolean (AND, OR, NOT) search


Truncate a term or complete a phrase


Wildcard used to replace a single letter


Wildcard used for alternate spellings

N and a number

Finds terms near x terms

W and a number

Finds terms within x terms in order

Try not to use punctuation

Databases ignore these unless it is a question mark

Try not to use stop words

Databases ignore these