Skip to Main Content

University of Portland Clark Library

Getting Started with Research

Google Search or Database Search?

Library databases are much more powerful search engines, in terms of precision, than Google or Google Scholar. This page introduces you to some of the search features to help you focus a database search to exactly what you need.

  • Search for information on a topic by keyword and phrase.
  • Special search filters help you narrow down your searches
  • Locate the database's preferred search terms

Intro to Search Strategy

  1. Start by writing a short description of the question you want to answer through your database search, such as:

    Do feelings of loneliness increase or decrease during social media use?

  2. Next, identify the key concepts of your topic, and brainstorm alternate terms:
    • Loneliness: Isolation, Alienation
    • Social Media: Social Networking


  3. Put an asterisk (*) in the right spot to find all possible endings to the search term:
    • lonel* will find lonely, loneliness....
    • isolat* will find isolation, isolated....


  4. In many databases you can put phrases in quotes:
    • "social media"

Refine Your Search

Options for Refining Your Search

Text of the above image (for accessibility purposes):

Improve your search by using the options on the left side of your search results.

Try these options:

Peer Reviewed:  Limit to scholarly articles

Full Text: Don't choose; you will miss articles that are immediately available online

Publication Date: limit your search to current articles

Subject: Find out what terms the database uses to describe your topic.  Improve your results by trying a new search using words from this list

Locate Preferred Terms for Your Database Search | 503.943.7111 or 800.841.8261 | 5000 N. Willamette Blvd., Portland, OR 97203-5798
Copyright © University of Portland, All Rights Reserved | Icons made by Freepik from