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Database Search Skills: Introduction

Introduction to database search skills

Database search skills are essential to your success as an online student and researcher. Most of us are very comfortable using internet search engines to get millions of results. However, getting a million results when doing a Library database search is not a desirable outcome. Who has time to look through a million articles?

When searching the Library databases, you want to find items that just fit your topic and the requirements for your discussion, assignment, or capstone. The goal of this guide is to teach you the skills necessary to efficiently search the Library databases to find and save the information you need. Specifically, this guide will cover how to:

  • decide on a topic
  • identify relevant databases
  • select appropriate keywords
  • connect your keywords
  • limit your searches using basic search limiters
  • use advanced search skills to refine your searches
  • save and share search results for future use


As you go through this guide, please remember that it takes time and practice to develop your database search skills. Have some fun with the process; don't be afraid to try things out and see what happens!

Database search process flowchart

Even for experienced researchers, searching the Library databases involves a certain amount of trial and error. Once you've mastered a few skills and concepts, you'll be well on your way to being an expert database searcher.

Text alternative for Database search process flowchart

  1. Start with a question or topic that you'd like to learn about.
  2. Determine which library database might have information on that topic.
  3. Take the main parts of your topic and use them as your keywords or search terms.
  4. Limit your search to just the type of material that you need.
  5. Run the search and look through the results.

Did you find what you needed?

Yes: Save your search results!
No: Try the steps (2-5) over again!