Most library databases are best searched using Boolean searching. That is, you choose words that best describe your topic ,and connect them with either AND, OR or NOT.
Boolean searching is named after a 19th Century mathematician, George Boole.
corpses AND insects retrieves records containing both words
corpses OR cadavers retrieves records containing either word
retrieves records containing the word insects
either the word corpses or the word cadavers
insects NOT beetles
when you want insects but not beetles
beetles NOT automobiles
when you want beetles but not cars
Use truncation – in most databases, the truncation symbol is an asterisk.
corps* will retrieve corpse and corpses.
emigra* will retrieve emigrant, emigrants, emigration.
The Boolean Machine is a tool for visualizing the effects of Boolean operators on keyword searches.
Once you have narrowed down your topic and come up with the research question your paper will explore, identify the main concepts in your query. Use these concepts as your search terms (keywords).
See examples below.
How does domestic violence affect children?
Compose your search:
domestic violence and children
How else might you compose your search?
family violence and children
Does providing employment opportunities to ex-prisoners
reduce the risk they will re-offend? (= recidivism).
Compose your search:
ex-prisoners and employment and recidivism
ex-convicts and employment and recidivism
Perhaps broaden the search to find more about recidivism in general:
recidivism and causes
When you see a good article in your list of results, look at the subject headings describing that article:
Some databases will show you a list of subject headings beside your result list. You can choose a subject, then click update, to get a list of articles described using that particular subject heading.
Or just do another search using the words used in the subject headings. e.g.
carrion insects and biodegradation
Or perhaps the subject heading is phrased in an unexpected way? Perhaps it is homicide rather than murder? Adolescents rather than teens?
On the Library's homepage, select the Databases tab in the main search box.
Open the dropdown menu for Select from popular databases, which lists the most-used databases at John Jay. You can also find databases by subject or by title.
If you wish to find articles in a given academic discipline, view databases by subject. For example, under Criminal Justice, you will see a list of databases that specialize in the topic.
If you want to go to a specific database whose name you already know, view databases by title.