How to search a database

How to search a database

Databases are searchable by keyword, subject, article title, author, date or journal title. They may provide the full text of the article or citation and abstract only.

Step 1: determine the key concept

Step 2: determine information type

Step 3: search a database

Step 4: analyse your results

Step 5: obtain full text articles

1. Determine the key concepts suitable for the topic

Analyse your topic and build a list of keywords, synonyms and related terms suitable for the topic.

  • Assignment: examine business ventures by Australian Aborigines.
  • Key Concepts: business ventures, specific art or tourism or comparisons with the Canadian experience.
  • Keywords:
Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
Aborigines Business Art
Aboriginal Entrepreneurs Tourism
Indigenous Employment Australia (Canada)

2. Determine information type

Consider whether current or historical information is required. Also consider the type of resources that would be appropriate e.g. newspapers, government documents, statistics, journal articles and reviews. Different databases may contain specific resources:

  • Factiva - full text articles for newspapers worldwide
  • AusStats - statistics from Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • APAIS - full text Australian public affairs issues and journal articles

3. Search a database

Although different databases may use different styles of searching, the principles are the same.

  • If advance search is provided, enter your search terms in boxes provided.
  • If only one search box is provided join your search terms using 'AND'.
Search the Expanded  Academic ASAP Database
  1. At the search screen click Advanced Search (located on the left blue bar).
  2. Enter your concepts 1, 2 and 3 (e.g. aborigines, business, art) into the search boxes, one in each box. 
    If only one search box is provided enter search as aborigines and business and art.
  3. The more terms that are included, the fewer results will be obtained. Therefore also try the search with only two terms and view the results (eg. aborigines, business).
  4. Repeat searches using different terms (e.g. indigenous, tourism, Australia).
Limit your Search

If you need more substantial material, narrow your search to articles and journals that have been critically examined by others working in the subject area. On Expanded Academic ASAP, under Limit the current search:

  1. click articles with text
  2. click to refereed publications

4. Analyse search results

Determine the usefulness of each search result by looking critically at the:

Article title Does this sound relevant to your topic? Take care as this may not always be an accurate guide to the article contents.
Source of the article Which journal published it? Does it indicate a particular field, i.e. tourism, environment?
Date of the publication How old is the article? Is the date important? Would older, background material be useful?
Abstract This is a brief summary of the article (provided search limits haven't been used, see below).
Text, PDF This is the full text of the article.
Keywords or subject headings Articles are assigned keywords which indicate the content. The Expanded Academic ASAP database provides a few keywords after the title, below the abstract or at the end of the full text article. In other databases these may be labelled descriptors and listed in the abstract or full text of the article.
Note: Identifying keywords or descriptors may also suggest other search terms to use in searching your topic.

5. Obtain full text articles

  1. Click on articles displayed as Text, Full-Text or PDF to view the full article.
  2. Print out the article.
Use abstracts to find full text articles

Items which contain an abstract may be available in full-text on another database.

  1. Identify the journal name, or source, in which the article appeared.
  2. Search in MultiSearch


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