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Choosing Databases

Get started by using DELCAT or Academic OneFile to find sources about any topic. 

You can also try subject databases to find sources related to a specific field or major. Use the tabs above to select your broad area of research, then choose a database related to your topic. 

Choosing subject databases can feel unfamiliar because we're accustomed to one-stop searching with Google, but it will help you find relevant sources for research in college. To explore more, browse the library's full list of subject databases

Search Tips

Search Connectors

When you search in a database, you'll need to take a different approach than searching with Google or entering a query in a generative AI such as ChatGPT. Databases work best when you use search connectors to combine your keywords. Search connectors include AND, OR, and NOT

Using AND

Venn diagram representing football AND fans

Football AND Fans

  • Searches for sources that use ALL keywords
  • Narrows your search
  • Example: Finds sources that include both football and fans

Using OR

Venn diagram representing fans OR fandom

Fans OR Fandom

  • Searches for sources that use ANY keywords
  • Broadens your search 
  • Work well for terms with similar meanings
  • Example: Finds sources that use fans, fandom, or both terms

Using NOT

Venn diagram representing eagles NOT football

Eagles NOT Football

  • Excludes a term from your search
  • Works well for terms that have different meanings in different contexts
  • Example: Finds sources about eagles, the animal, rather the Eagles football team


Truncation allows you to search for variations of a term with multiple endings. To use truncation, take the word down to its root and add an asterisk. Your search will return results that include all possible endings of the word.


  • legis* = legislator, legislators, legislative, legislation 
  • parent* = parent, parents, parental, parenting

Quotation Marks

Sometimes keywords are single terms, but sometimes there are short phrases that are relevant for your topic. If you want to search for a short phrase, you can put the terms in quotation marks to make sure your results include that exact phrase. 


  • "social media"
  • "climate change"
  • "fast fashion"

A note of caution: Quotation marks work best for short phrases that are commonly used in scholarly sources such as peer-reviewed articles. If you try searching with quotation marks and get limited results, rethink the phrase you're searching. You might need to break it down into keywords. 


What's in a database? 

This video explains the relationship between databases, journals, and articles. 

How do keywords relate to sources? 

Most databases will give you a list of sources where your keywords match terms in the source title, subjects, and abstract.

Screenshot of a keyword search matching terms used in title, abstract, and subjects.


What to try if...

  • You get too many results with no clear focus

    • Narrow your search by adding keywords or using more specific keywords
    • Scan results that look somewhat relevant to identify better keywords
    • Use the filter to narrow by source type, publication date, and more
    • Try a different search tool
  • You get limited results or no results

    • Broaden your search by reducing the number of keywords you’re using
    • Use more general/broad keywords
    • Try a different database related to your topic, or use DELCAT
  • You’re unsure of what keywords to use or how to approach your search

    • Use Credo Reference, Wikipedia, or Google to build context about your topic and identify keywords
    • Use Google Scholar to see which academic fields are studying your topic. Scan results to help you identify keywords

Using Call Numbers to Find a Book

This video explains how to use a call number from DELCAT to find books in the Morris Library stacks.