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Biology 11A Research Project: Research Databases

Searching the Databases

This page contains information about the best databases to use for these assignments as well as tips on how to search the databases efficiently and effectively. 

Accessing the Databases: Access the databases though the CCC Library's Articles: Research Databases page. You will need to use your student ID# and the same password you use for your Canvas to login.

Tips for Searching the Databases

The default way of searching in the databases is known as keyword searching. When you use keyword searching, the databases ultimately try to match what you have typed into the search box with the search results that contain the words you searched. Ever wonder why you sometimes get search results that are not about your topic? This could be the reason why. You can search using a different method in order to find search results that are about your topic, though. This is called subject searching. In order to conduct subject searching, you do need to do a keyword search first in order to familiarize yourself with the terms the databases use to describe your topic. The table below will help you understand the differences between keyword and subject searching. 

Keywords Subject Terms
Natural language A set vocabulary known to the databases
Search will be broader - you'll get more results Search will be narrower - you'll get fewer results
Can retrieve more unrelated results Results tend to be more relevant to the topic

How to Search Using Keywords

  1. Just type! The default setting for the catalog or database search box is keyword search.
    • Don't use questions or full sentences. The database looks for every word you type in, so keep your search to a few important keywords and terms.

How to Search Using Subject Terms

  1. How you search by subject term varies by database and library catalog, but you will already want to be aware of some subject terms when you start.
    • Remember, subject terms are a set vocabulary so not all words and terms will be subject terms.
  2. Find subject terms by starting off with a keyword search. Subject terms are usually indicated in the information page for the article (called the record page). 
    • Sometimes, these subject terms are hyperlinked - click to search!
  3. You can also use the subject terms you found in the Advanced Search function of the database or catalog that you're searching.
    • When searching for subject terms, type your term into the search box and look for the dropdown that is usually to the right of the search box (left in the library catalog) for the option to search by "subject" or "subject terms."

Boolean Operators are words that act as a sort of command for the databases and library catalog. They set the relationship between multiple search terms and either expand or narrow your search. Three of the most used Boolean Operators are AND, OR, and NOT.


AND Boolean Operator

"AND" is the most commonly used Boolean Operator. You would use AND to combine search terms. It basically tells the database or catalog that you want to find results that contain both words or terms.

Example: mental health AND grief


OR Boolean Operator

"OR" is best used in situations where you are looking for results that mention either of the terms or words you're searching. Your search results will have articles that just mention the first term, articles that just mention the second term, and articles that mention both terms. This is best used when different words are used to describe the same thing like in the example provided.

Example: kids OR children


NOT Boolean Operator

"NOT" is used when you are searching for one term but you don't want to see mentions of another term in your results. The best time to use this Boolean Operator is when you are searching for a broad topic, but don't want to see results with one of the narrower topics or when you are searching for a topic that can be associated with a broad range of topics that would not make sense in your search results. See the examples below.

Examples: mental illness NOT anxiety
dolphins NOT football 

What is peer review?

Peer review (also referred to as "refereed" or "scholarly" articles) refers to articles that are written for an academic/scholarly publication that focuses on a subject or topic, and is reviewed by "peers" or other scholars who are experts on that topic. As a result, peer-reviewed articles are considered information of the highest caliber, extremely reliable and credible.

Are all academic/scholarly journals peer reviewed?

No. That's why it's important to know how to search for these journals. Also, be aware that not all articles in peer-reviewed journals are peer reviewed. If the article looks like a book review or an editorial, it is not peer-reviewed, but they will still show up in your search results because they are from peer-reviewed journals. If you're looking at an article and you're not sure, talk to your instructor or a librarian.

Most databases and catalogs allow you to narrow your search results to articles from peer-reviewed journals in the area that may either be known as, "Filters," "Limiters," or "Refine your Results." It is important to note that the search returns results from journals that are peer reviewed, but not all items in peer-reviewed journals are peer reviewed, but it is generally easy to tell what types of articles are not peer reviewed. Examples of articles that are not peer reviewed includes letters to the editor, opinion pieces (Op-Eds), and book reviews.

The majority of sources on the gene expression in the guts of humans and fruit flies will come from the EBSCOhost databases. The first video provides an introduction to EBSCOhost including basic search, adding multiple databases to a search, constructing a search, narrowing search results, and saving the resources you find. Additional information about using EBSCOhost can be found in the How to Use EBSCOhost Guide.

This second video goes over using advanced search techniques in EBSCOhost and covers search by field, Boolean operators, and search limiters by database.

Another source you may find useful in your research is the Science database from Gale in Context. The video below offers a brief introduction to using this database and covers topic pages, advanced search, search by field, browse topics, and searching within a source. Additional information on this database can be found on the Science page of the How to Use the Gale in Context Databases Guide.

OneSearch, CCC's library catalog, indexes many resources that are freely available online through multiple online journals and repositories, and puts them all in one place, making it easy to search them all at once. The video below covers open access resources, identifying open access sources, filtering your search results, record pages, and accessing your resources. 

Recommended Databases