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How to Search

The key to searching the databases is using KEYWORDS. Searching the databases is different than searching an internet source. For example, you might type a whole question like, "what are the effects of video games on children's behavior" into a search engine. Typing in a whole sentence like that in the database confuses it and you won't find any results. Instead, you need to pick out the keywords and only search those. For the example above, you might search "video games" "children" "behavior" to get some relevant results.

Database Search Strategies

Always think about different  ways to say the same thing.  Start with keywords to describe your topic; within results, look at the abstract and subject headings to identify additional keywords to use.

Search Strategies: 
Connectors - or/and do not have to be capitalized.
Start with keywords (place phrases in quotes), use connectors (or / and) and look for the subject headings specific to each database.

 Once you find a few relevant articles, look at the subject headings and revise the search if necessary by limiting to subjects and/or incorporating the subject words into the search.

place phrases in quotes use * for truncation
"political participation" role* = role or roles
"mass media" feminis* = feminism or feminist
"gender role" female* = female or females
"gender identity" sex* = sex or sexism or sexual or sexist
"feminist theory" ethnic* = ethnic or ethnicity
"abortion rights" right* = right or rights
ethnograph* = ethnography or ethnographic


use - or - to connect synonyms:  use - and - to connect concepts: 
("gender role*" or "gender identity") abortion and (law or legislation)
law or legislation immigration and education and women
policies or policy globalization and china and women



put it all together:
media and women and (muslim or islam*)
women and "social conditions" and "united states"

Where to Search

When doing a project or research paper, using a variety of sources helps create a more interesting result. Different topics may require the use of different sources, but in general, you should use: 

  • books
  • reference books--encyclopedias and dictionaries
  • scholarly journals
  • magazines
  • newspapers
  • government documents
  • statistical sources

You can find many of these types of sources in the PPCC Libraries collection. A search in the catalog will find books. Use our databases to find journal, newspaper and magazine articles. 

The sources you find through the PPCC Libraries are reputable, reliable sources. 

Sources found in our databases are NOT internet sources. When your instructor says, "don't use the internet," skip Google and Wikipedia and use the libraries' databases and books. 

Search Hints

Keep in mind these search tips when conducting your research:

In women-focused databases, there’s usually no need to put “women” into your search, except where “women” is already part of the term.

In other databases, search for women (OR girls, if relevant) as one concept adding AND to your specific concept, such as hip hop, distance runners, or sitcoms. [You don’t need to put in “women” if your concept already contains a “women word” (ex: chick flicks, mothers, lipstick lesbians), or a name (ex: Madonna, Mother Teresa, etc.)]

Search for synonyms or words that are close enough in meaning to be relevant to your search. Connect them with OR (ex: patriarchy or androcentrism or sexism; consumers or marketing or selling or product)

Search for word stems (truncate*) where any ending of the stem would be useful. Ex: consum* finds consume, consumer, consumption, etc.

Read critically, especially free web material. Consider 1) who wrote the item, 2) the purpose of the site – is it trying to sell you something, convince you, share a particular point of view, inform/explain, etc., and 3) the accuracy of the information. 

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