Skip to Main Content

ENG 112: Synthesis, Annotated Bibliography, and Academic & Professional Discourse Analysis

Synthesis Assignment

How do I use the databases? Ideally, searching for information within a database is as simple as typing your research topic into the search field and selecting articles from the search returns. Of course research usually isn’t this easy, and you may want to refine your search terms over multiple searches based on your search returns. And because databases like ProQuest Central can include both full text and abstract-only records, be sure to check off the “full-text” limiter box to weed out the abstract-only records on the main search page.


Search Terms

The larger databases can contain hundreds of thousands of articles. Finding exactly the articles you need for your research assignment depends in large part on using the right search terms. It won’t matter how many articles a database may contain on your subject if you can’t find them. While there’s as much art as skill in generating smart search terms, following these tips can help:

  • Short keywords. Think of your research topic and try to break it down into smaller pieces. For example, if your topic is the effects of violent video games on children, instead of typing in “the effect of violent video games on children,” try typing in: violence AND video games AND children. This is because the longer and more specific your keywords, the more articles the database is likely to exclude.  If you tried the former search, the database will look for the entire phrase and probably only find an article or two. The latter search is likely to pull up hundreds of articles.
  • Experiment. Play around with your search terms. Try different wordings. You won’t break the databases. You didn’t master Googling overnight—you won’t master database searching overnight either. But the more comfortable you are experimenting with different kinds of searches, the quicker you’ll develop a feel for them. Don’t know what a certain database link does? Click it and see.