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How to Choose and Use Databases

Search skills that help you find what you're looking for.

Limit Options

Most databases allow you to narrow your search by selecting specific dates of publication, languages, or publication types.  It is best to run your search first, then apply limiters.  Some databases will show limits before the search, usually on the advanced search screen: 

Search limits on a search screen, including Full Text, Scholarly Journals, Document Type, References Available, Published Date, Publication Type, and Language.

Search limits on a sidebar, including Full Text, References Available, Scholarly Journals, Source Types, Subject, Publication, Company, Geography, NAICS/Industry.





While others show limits after the search, usually in options in a side column: 

A few allow both options.

These examples are actually both from Academic Search Ultimate.












Specialized subject databases may also have limits unique to the discipline:


Specialized Search Limits

Historical Abstracts and America: History & Life
  • Date ranges the article is about


MEDLINE Complete

  • Age related
  • Clinical Queries
  • EBM


APA PsycInfo

  • Methodology
  • Age group
  • Population


ACM Digital Library

  • Institution
  • Advisors
  • Reviewers
  • Paper Awards
  • Reproducibility Badges

Limiting to Full Text

Databases that contain a mix of full-text and index-only content, often have a checkbox limit for full-text only—like both of the pictured examples above. Don't use it!   Even if this database doesn't have the full-text online, some other database may. That's what the                             link is for.  That link runs a search for that specific journal in all of the full-text that LVC owns (100,000 journal titles) and will connect you to the full-text of the journal, if it finds it.  If it fails, it'll give you the option to get a copy of the material, with the GET IT link.