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Guide to Finding Articles Using a Database

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Choosing a Database

Developing a Search

Retrieving and Saving Search Results

Getting the Article


Choosing a Database

Databases are used for finding citations to articles, papers, books and/or book chapters. Only some of the databases contain the actual full-text of articles. USM Libraries has over 100 discipline-specific online databases (nursing, education, science, etc.). A list of databases, by title and by subject category, can be found on the library's Article Databases page. The easiest way to decide which database to use is to use the drop-down menu under "Browse by Subject or Academic Area" and pick the category that your topic best fits under. For example, for articles about ethnography choose "Sociology." A list of databases covering sociology will appear.


Developing a Search

Using Keywords
To search in a database, you must enter keywords that you want the computer to find for you. Before starting your search, it is a good idea to write out your thesis or a statement about what you are looking for. From your thesis or statement, pull out all of the major keywords. For each of the keywords, write as many synonyms as possible. If you are unable to find citations with your major keywords, you may want to use some of the synonyms.

*Tip: Some of the databases have a built-in thesaurus to determine the appropriate terms to use. See Using the Thesaurus below for more information.

Using Booleans
Start your search by entering some of your major keywords in the given search box. You can enter as many as you want and you can truncate (see "Using Truncation" below) as many of them as you wish. When using more than one term or phrase, though, you must combine the terms or phrase using what are known as Boolean operators. The two which are most used are AND and OR.

AND connects terms when you want both terms to be present somewhere in the citation/abstract. The more ANDS you add to your search, the more fewer citations you will receive.

OR retrieves records containing at least one of the terms. The more ORs you add to your search, the more citations you will receive.


If using AND and OR in the same search string, be sure to use parenthesis to group the OR words.
Using Truncation
You may have noticed that for some of the synonyms, a different form of the same word is listed. It is important to remember that the computer will look for the exact word you give it. But it is possible to tell the computer to look for different forms of the same word. This is done by a trick called truncation. Almost every database allows you to use truncation and the truncation device is usually the asterick ( * ). To find different word endings, simply type the root word and insert the asterick at the end.
Using Limiters
Search results can be limited in several areas. Some examples of such limiters are: Document Type (i.e. journal article or book chapter), Publication Type (i.e. case study or empirical study), Peer Reviewed, or Audience Type (i.e. general public or researcher). A few limiters are often located on the basic search screen, but additional limiters can usually be found on a separate page labeled "Advanced or Guided Searching" or "Change Limits."

Using the Index
The index is helpful for searching for publications by a particular field, such as an author or journal. Type the appropriate term in the Term box. An alphabetical list of terms is displayed. The number in parenthesis is the number of records that have that term in the field. Click on the appropriate term to see the record(s).

Using the Thesaurus
You may want to use the thesaurus to determine the proper terminology that describes your topic. ERIC and PSYCHInfo are two databases that have an online thesaurus. The thesaurus suggests appropriate search terms that may be used.


Retrieving and Saving Search Results

Search Results
Type your search terms in the given box and click on Search. The database is set to automatically show only a brief citation. To see a complete record or full-text (if full-text is available), click on the appropriate link.

Marking Records
Mark records that you want to keep by clicking on the box at the top left corner of each record. Records can then be printed, saved to a disk or e-mailed.

Print/Save/E-mail
To print, save or e-mail records, mark the records that you want to keep. Then click on the Print, Save, or E-mail button.


Getting the Article

Using Find It!
If the article is not full-text within the database you are currently searching, you will see a button. The Find It! service searches for your article in the other databases that USM subscribes to. If the article is not full-text in any of the other databases, you will be given the option to search ANNA for the journal title, to search Google, to use USM's Document Delivery services (see below), or to search the Web of Science for other articles by your author.

Using ANNA/Catalog
If you click on "Holdings in ANNA" from the Find It! screen, a search in the catalog is automatically initiated for the journal, magazine or newspaper in which the article is located. If the journal name appears, USM owns the journal. If the journal name does not appear, USM does not own it. If the journal's name appears more than once, USM receives it in more than one format (paper, online, microfiche, microfilm).

list of holdings

Even when USM owns a journal, it does not necessarily mean that they own the particular volume you need. To view the specific volumes owned by USM, click on the Full Details button on each record. Scroll down to the part of the record that indicates what volumes the library has.

volumes owned by USM


Finding and Copying Articles
The record should indicate the format of the journal (microform, online, etc.). The format will indicate where the journal can be found. If it is Online, simply click on the "URL" link provided at the left of the record. If it is current (published within the last year) or is on microform (fiche or film), the journal will be located in 2nd Floor South. There are machines for copying and for viewing and printing micro (10 cents/page - must use a copy card). If the record indicates that the journal is in Stacks, then it is shelved like a book and can be found on the appropriate floor by the call number. Copy machines are available on all floors of Cook Library.

Retrieving Articles Not Owned by USM
If the journal you need is not available through a full-text database or in the library's collection, a service known as "Document Delivery" may be an option available for getting the article. A link for "Document Delivery" is available through "Find It!" in the article database and also on the library's home page. If an article is available via Document Delivery, it can be ordered and delivered to you within 1-3 days at no cost to you.

The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries
118 College Drive No. 5053 Hattiesburg MS 39406-5053
http://www.lib.usm.edu/help/help_guides/finding_articles1.html