"Articles" can come from many sources including newspapers (such as the Wall Street Journal), trade publications (such as Variety), popular magazines (such as Time magazine) or scholarly journals (such as the Journal of Marketing). While article databases have different strengths, many of the same strategies for searching are effective in most databases. Some of the key strategies are:
Defining your topic
Any search will be more effective if you think about what you are looking for before you begin to search. There are often multiple ways to define a topic; using different descriptions can help you find things you would have otherwise missed. Try to break your search into several keywords or phrases and then combine them, as described below.
Combining search terms
Article databases use more advanced search syntax than Web search engines. Understanding how they are different can make your search more efficient. One of the primary differences is the way that you combine search terms; this is done with the keywords "and," "or" and "not." Use these to narrow or broaden your search.
Wild cards and truncation
There are times when you aren't exactly sure how something is spelled or you are searching for multiple words that have similar roots. Truncation and wild cards can help. These involve inserting special characters instead of letters so that the database will search for variations. Wild cards replace one or more letters like this: Marsh*ll. This will find Marshall, Marshill, Marshell, etc. Truncation searches for the root of a word like this: econom? This will find economic, economy, economist, economical, etc.
Note: These are examples. The actual 'wild card' characters used will vary by database (typically an * or ?). Always consult the online "help" for the database that you are using before using wild cards or truncation.
Another way that article databases differ from Web search engines is subject indexing. Subject indexing is a way of describing what articles are about. The subject terms used often differ from the keywords that you use to search; by using subject terms to define your search, you can find things you might have missed otherwise. It can also eliminate irrelevant articles that might mention your search term but not in any meaningful way.
Subject terms have different names and these vary according to database (a few databases don't use them.) You can often discover what they are called as well as discovering some that match your search by doing a search using keywords and then looking at some of your results. Look for entries like subject, subject term or descriptor.