Skip to main content

Introduction to Research: Constructing Searches

This guide is a tutorial to help students learn the basics of library research

How to Search the Databases

Select a Database

Use the Databases A to Z to select a specific Database or use Databases by Subject to view database listed by subject.

Access Databases from Off Campus

Only current NSU students, faculty and staff can access our databases from off campus.  To access our databases from off campus, click the name of the database.  You will then see a screen asking you to log in using your NSU network ID and password.

Full Text and Scholarly Articles

Check for Full Text and Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed by clicking the full-text box and scholarly box.


You can determine which citation style to use; the two most commonly used at NSU are MLA and APA.


Search for Articles

Choose Keywords

Choose keywords that represents the important ideas you want the article to contain.

Combine keywords Using AND and OR (Boolean Operators) to refine Your Search

Tell the database how to combine your keywords using Boolean operators.

Refine Your Search Using Limits and Field-Specific Searches

There are two options for refining your search beyond specifying keywords.

Field-Specific searches: the databases looks for a keyword in only a specific field, such as author, title, abstract, or publication title.  Look for a field drop down box next to the search box.

Limiters: additional fields that appear on the search page such as scholarly (or peer-reviewed) date of publication, and article type.

Constructing Searches

Here's a quick guide to constructing a database search.

Topic: What are the effects of caffeine on respiration rate and pulse rate after exercise?

1. Identify the key concepts (caffeine, respiration rate, pulse rate, exercise)

2. Group these according to concept.

Concept one = caffine

Concept two = respiration rate or pulse rate

Concept three - exercise


Use quotation marks around words you want to search as a phrase, e.g. "respiration rate".

Use truncation symbols to retrieve all possible endings on a word. Most databases use the asterisk (*) as a truncation symbol, e.g. exercis* with retrieve exercise, exercises, exercising, etc.

Be prepared to search more than one database. Always revise your search strategy to comply with individual database requirements.

Basic Keyword Searching

Advanced Search Techniques