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Michigan State University

LB 492: Scientific Virtue (Pennock): Using Databases

Finding Subject-Specific Databases

  1. Navigate to the library Databases page.
  2. Click on the dropdown menu on the left, which says "All Subjects." 

    databases page with the "All Subjects" dropdown menu at the top left

  3. Select the subject you're interested in. (Note: If you want to try a second subject, go back to the original Databases page and use the dropdown menu again. If you are looking at the Biological Sciences list, for example, using the dropdown menu from that page will only show you databases that appear in that list). 

Searching Databases

Tips for Searching

1. Use keywords

If you are starting your search, trying use keywords, rather than full sentences.


  • p-hacking issues rather than What are the issues with p-hacking?

2. Put phrases in quotes

If you are searching for a phrase, such as model-based reasoning, put the entire phrase in double quotes. This will tell the database to only find results that contain the exact phrase, rather than one or two of the individual words.

3. Use AND to narrow your search

If you have two or more words or concepts that you want to find, use AND (must be capitalized) to tell the search engine to only look for items that contain both words.


  • Copernicus AND heliocentricity

4. Use OR to combine synonyms

It's helpful to think about different terms that researchers and authors might use, and then to combine them with OR. For example, in the US we call the period before birth "prenatal," while in the UK they call it "antenatal." So if you wanted to make sure you got all possible articles on the topic, you'd type in (prenatal OR antenatal). Terms can also change over time: for example, if you want to find all the articles on ADHD written over the last 20 years, you'd want  to enter (ADHD OR ADD), because ADD used to be treated as mostly separate from ADHD.

5. Spell things out

If you're having a really hard time finding relevant articles, and you're using an acronym of some sort, try spelling it out. So ADD would become Attention Deficit Disorder.

Michigan State University