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Searching Solutions: Non-Indexed

Understanding how searching changes from search engine to database.

Non-Indexed Databases and Search Engines

Non-indexed databases and search engines (e.g. Google) generally gather their citations and related materials from multiple sources. A Basic search examines available fields to find the entered terms. Some, like Web of Science, are totally dependent on how the author (or journal) has described the article. Databases that pull from a indexed databases (e.g. USC Libraries search and ProQuest) may also offer access to the indexed terms (e.g. MeSH) applied by those databases. See Non-Indexed Examples for tips on searching specific databases.


  • Use a variety of keywords and connect them with Boolean operators
  • Use quotation marks when searching for a phrase in a non-indexed database
    • E.g., using "heart attack" means searching for that specific phrase somewhere in the database - and using the phrase without quotation marks, will retrieve Dr. Heart writing about attack dogs
  • Look for an Advanced Search option to use Boolean and other terms provided by the database

USC Libraries

For information on the non-indexed USC Libraries search, visit:


Google can be a powerful research tool that helps you find policy and legislative data, statistics, policy reports, and more. The trick is knowing how to get Google to find the good stuff for you.

Know your domains: The end of a web address (URL), after the dot, is the domain. For example,, edu is the domain. You can use domains to filter out your Google results. 

Common domains are:

  • edu -- educational sites
  • org -- non-profit sites
  • gov -- government sites

I know that many statistics are available on government sites, so I can have Google search for sites that end in gov.

Google domain filtering:

Add the words "" (or org/edu/com/etc.) to the end of your Google search. Use a semicolon to separate domains.

The search below is asking Google to find sources about HIV infections in Los Angeles, and limiting my results to websites that end in .gov or .org -- in other words, I only want results from government or non-profit organizations.


Full Text Databases

Some databases allow full text searching. For academic journal databases, this means the word(s) you enter could be only in a footnote or a reference. Not all fields in all databases can be searched. Use Advanced Search options (when available) to search additional fields.

Databases that search the full text include:

Multi-Database Searches

Sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between a database and a search engine. ProQuest, for example, includes over 130 individual databases - and options to search across two or more of the underlying databases. Generally searching across multiple databases (equivalent to a search engine) requires both keyword and phrase searching. A subject search depends on the subjects applied within the underlying databases. In ProQuest, if you cannot locate a Thesaurus or subject heading hierarchy, then the database is probably not indexed.

Search engines that allow searching across multiple databases include the following. See Non-indexed Examples for details on searching tips for these databases.