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Database Searching - Structure your search

Plan Your Search Strategy

Identify the main concepts of your topic. Make a list of synonyms/similar words and related terms for each concept. These are the keywords you will later type into OneSearch or another library database. Example:

Concept 1

Concept 2 Concept 3

Social Media

teenage girls



young women



adolescent female



Then decide which concepts or keywords you will search in what combination.


Think about your search limits. Do you want to limit your search to current materials or do you need a historical view? Are you looking for scholarly or popular resources? What are the requirements of the assignment?  What search tool will help you find the resources you need?


Combine Keywords/Concepts

Searching databases requires a little more search structure than our average  Google Search.

Always try more than one search!

You can combine your keywords using AND, OR & NOT 

For more about structuring your searches in databases using AND, OR, & NOT (what librarians call Boolean Logic), watch the following videos:



Search Tips

  • When AND is between two words, your search results will be limited to sources that contain both words.
    • For example:  Twitter AND identity

  •   OR expands your search since either word can appear in your search results.
    • For example teenage girls OR  young women

  • NOT excludes information, so it  removes the word that appears after NOT from all your search results 
    • For example:  Twitter NOT Facebook 


  • Use quotations (know as "phrase searching") to limit the search results.  The words in quotation marks will be searched as an exact phrase
    • For example: "social media"

  • Use an asterisk* for alternate word endings,
    • For example: teach* will pull results containing teaching, teach, teacher, etc. 

Use One Search to Find Books, Articles & More

​Our library has access to more than 50 databases, many of them tailored for specific fields such as art, business, literature, medicine, and psychology.  We have a complete list of our databases listed alphabetically or by subject on our library website. 


Not sure what database to choose?


Start with Skyline College Library's OneSearch Logo  

OneSearch provides simple, one-stop searching for books and e-books, videos, articles, digital media, and more;  it combines the contents of many of the databases our library subscribes to.

To Find books & articles in our library, use the search strategies illustrated in the previous section:
 Database Searching - Structure your search.

Watch the following OneSearch video about how to:

  • Search
  • Limit your search results
  • Get the full text of an article or eBook
  • Copy citation information


OneSearch Search Steps 

1. On the Library's homepage, enter your search words into the main search box (OneSearch).
Next, click the search button or hit enter.
2. Next, a window/tab will open with your search results.
You can select options on the left side of your screen to limit your search results to specific resource types, dates and other options.
3.  To view articles or ebooks you've found, you'll need to sign in "to get complete results and request items" (upper right corner). 
Use the same login information you use for Canvas. 
4. Next, click on the title you're interested in, and a window with more information will pop up. 
To access the full text of the article, e-book or other source you'd like to view, click one of the databases (EBSCO, JSTOR, etc.) under "View Online."
For citation information for the article or other source, click "citation" above "View Online."
To email the source to yourself, use the "email" button. 

Recommended Subject Databases