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LIS2004 Strategies for Online Research | Prof. Machado Dillon

This guide contains resources for students of Prof. Machado Dillon's LIS2004 course.

LIS2004 Lesson 4

Learning Outcomes

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Identify the basic features of library databases
  • Use the library databases’ advanced search features
  • Choose appropriate search terms to locate articles on your topic

Information Literacy Competencies

You will apply and learn about information literacy competencies while completing this learning module.

  • The primary competency related to this module is Research as Inquiry
  • The primary knowledge practice is to formulate questions for research based on information gaps or on reexamination of existing, possibly conflicting, information.
What are Library Databases?

Library databases are a collection of online resources purchased to aid students in conducting research. The resources include streaming videos, newspaper articles, magazine articles, electronic books and book chapters, academic journal articles, and literary criticism. Miami Dade College Libraries subscribe to many different databases. Each database offers different content, so you'll want to choose the database that is most useful for your research question.

Library databases are very expensive products, but enrolled students have access to them. Because the databases contain expensive, published content, students must login to use them in accordance with the licensing agreements between the college and the database vendors.

Benefits of Using Library Databases

There are many great things about library databases. The top three are:

  1. They are searchable. You can search using keywords to find very specific information.
  2. They have been selected for you by librarians. Miami Dade College Librarians, and the consortium Miami Dade College belongs to, have chosen these databases because they contain content relevant to your studies at Miami Dade College. Because these databases have been evaluated, you know that the content included is of high quality.
  3. You have access to the databases as an enrolled student. The library databases are very expensive resources paid for by Miami Dade College and the consortia. Library databases are often the only way you can access certain kinds of information without paying to access each article, especially scholarly journal articles.

Miami Dade College subscribes to more than 100 databases that cover a variety of topics to complement the courses taught here. Not all libraries subscribe to the same content.

Databases at Miami Dade College

Accessing the MDC Databases

  • Access the databases available through MDC by selecting More Databases on the MDC Learning Resources Library webpage.
  • Search the databases by subject.
  • Try different keywords and add more than one in order to narrow down or focus the results.
  • Be sure to add the following filters to your searches, Full Text and Scholarly or Peer Reviewed when applicable.

Logging In

  • Username - Your username is the first half of your MDC email address
  • Password - 15 character password used to log into your account


  • When conducting your search, remember the more keywords you use the more focused your search will be and you'll only have a few specific articles to look through rather than thousands.
  • Always select Full Text from the filters when available. This is usually located below the search fields where you enter your keywords.

Useful Tools

Take advantage of tools such as:

  • E-mail to send articles to yourself so as not to loose them.
  • Cite will generate a citation for the article in a variety of styles, including MLA. Simply copy and paste into your References.
Searching the Databases

Keyword vs Subject Search: Which Should I Use?

Both! A good search strategy is to begin with a keyword search. When you find a source which appears to be right on the mark, consider doing another search using the subject heading(s) assigned to that source. Here are some key differences between keyword searching and subject searching.

Keyword Searching vs. Subject Searching
Keyword Subject

Keywords are natural language words describing your topic. This is a good way to begin searching for information on your topic.

Subject terms are controlled vocabulary words determined by the database being searched. These terms are assigned to describe the content of each item in the database.

Keyword searching is more flexible, allowing you to combine terms in many ways.

Subject searching is less flexible because you must know the controlled vocabulary term or phrase in order to search.

The database searches for keywords in every part of the record (title, author name, subject headings, etc.).

The database searches for subject terms only in the subject heading or descriptor fields.

Keyword searching can easily yield too many or too few search results.

If a subject search yields too many results, you can often select a more specific subheading to further narrow your search.

Search results often include many irrelevant results.

Search results are usually very relevant to the topic being searched.

Advanced Searching

Most databases provide an advanced search feature. The advanced search usually contains pull-down menus that allow you to search specific categories. Those categories are typically: subject headings, author, date, journal title, and article title. Depending on the database, additional search fields might be available.

By applying limiters, you can narrow your search results to exclude sources which do not meet the criteria you have chosen. Popular limiters are:

  • Full Text: only sources with access to the complete article will be included
  • Scholarly (Peer Reviewed): only articles from peer reviewed journals will be included
  • Publication Type: only sources of the specified type, like newspaper, book, or primary source document, will be included
  • Published Date: only sources published within the date range set will be included
  • Language: only sources in the language chosen will be included

Depending on which database you are using, the advanced search feature may look slightly different. See the video below to learn how to use the advanced search features.

“EBSCOhost Advanced Searching - Tutorial” by EBSCO Help

(2:12, Standard YouTube License)

In EBSCOhost Academic Search Complete:

Limiters: Below the advanced search are all the different limiters. You can limit the date range, the type of material (news, periodical, journal, etc.), the language, the document type and much more.

Limit your results

Boolean Searching

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are used to connect your keywords to either broaden or narrow your search. It is a good practice to place one keyword on each line in a database and connect them with AND or OR.

AND is the default in most databases. AND works to narrow your search. If I search for "obesity" alone I will get many results. If I search for "obesity" on the first line connected by AND to "childhood" on the second line, I should be eliminating all search results which discuss obesity without mentioning the childhood, thus narrowing my search.

Connecting words with OR has the opposite effect. OR is good for use with synonyms. I want search results about childhood obesity, but there are several ways to discuss children. I could search for "child" OR "juvenile", for example. The results for this search will include all results about child and juvenile and about both.

Boolean Modifiers

There are several tricks you can use to make searching the databases easier and direct the search to find exactly what you need.

Phrase Searching, Truncation, Wildcards

Database Tools

Most databases offer tools to help you save your research. In many cases these tools will be located on the right side of the article record screen.

Two of the most popular are email and citation.


You can email to any email address, not just your school account. You can also send to multiple email addresses...just separate by a semicolon (;).

This is a great way to make sure everyone in your group has the same article. 

Add a subject to the subject line so when you see it in your email you'll know where it belongs.


Finally, select the appropriate citation format. Most databases offer the big three: APA, MLA, and Chicago.

You can save just the citation as well. Scroll down to your preferred style and copy and paste it into your research document. 

Make sure all your formatting is done properly.

Sometimes the database gets the hiccups and everything will be in all CAPS. Don't do that. Make sure it's upper and lower case.

Proofread all your citations against an MLA or APA Handbook, Miami Dade College Libraries’ MLA or APA LibGuide, or Purdue OWL.

EBSCO Database Tools: Google Drive, Add to Folder, Print, E-mail, Save, Cite, Export, Create Note, Permalink, Share

Google Scholar and Databases

Google Scholar is a Google search dedicated to academic articles, book reviews, case law and patents. You can date range it, control what you find and it cites the articles.

You can link Google Scholar on your home computer or laptop to the Miami Dade College databases!

This can be an amazing tool for finding the right database for your research!

Follow the steps below...then try a search and see if you can work from Google backwards into a database article. The links to the right of your search results are either linked to Miami Dade College databases or links to "free online" academic articles.

Are you saying to yourself, "I wish I'd known this for years!"

Google Scholar: 1. Click Library Links, 2. Type Miami Dade College, 3. Search, 4. Check all that apply, 5. Save

Additionally, check out the Google Scholar Help page for an overview of Google Scholar, how to search, access articles, receive email alerts, set up your library or libraries, export citations, and much more.


In this module, you have learned how to:

  1. Identify the basic features of library databases
  2. Use the library databases’ advanced search features
  3. Choose appropriate search terms to locate articles on your topic