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SOC 3 Bishop: Basic Searching in Databases

Marriage and the Family


How is household labor divided among same-sex parents?

Identify Keywords

The database will look for the exact words that you enter into the search bar, so rather than ask an entire question, break down your topic or research question into 2-4 concepts that represent your topic. You'll get better matches this way.

Think about your topic or research question.

  • Create a list of possible words that could appear in a book or article related to your topic.
  • Come up with synonyms or related terms.
  • You will want to try a variety of combinations.

Selecting and Using Keywords

University of West Florida, John C. Pace Library, (3:50)

Use Database Limiters

Refine your results by:

  • full-text
  • peer-reviewed
  • publication date

Database limiters

Class Activity

Look at your research question / topic. What keywords can you identify?

Connect Keywords with Boolean Operators

How do you combine keywords? Boolean operators are words you can use between your terms to either broaden or limit your search.

OR Use to broaden your search and to join SIMILAR terms. Example: "gay parents" OR "lesbian mothers"
AND Use to narrow your search and join DISSIMILAR terms. Exmaple: parents AND "division of labor"

Use Database Fields

You can specify where the database should look for your terms. For example, you can specify that terms should be present in say the title, abstract, etc. Different databases may have different field options.

Database fields

Use Quotation Marks to Find Phrases

  • “family dynamics”
  • "alcohol abuse"
  • "teen dating"

Use a Truncation Symbol to Find Word Variations

The asterisk * is the most common truncation symbol.

  • child* = child, children, childhood, etc.

You do have to be careful with truncation. Sometimes you might get unexpected results.

  • minor*= minor, minors, minority, minorities, etc.