Questions to Ask Yourself before Starting Your Research

  1. What type of articles are required? Do they have to be scholarly or peer-reviewed? How many are required?
  2. Do the articles have to have been published within a certain time frame? For example, are you limited to articles published within the last 5 years?
  3. What are the keywords of the assignment or research topic? Do these words have synonyms or can other words be used in their place? For example, if one of the keywords is “adolescent,” some synonyms may include the following: juvenile, teen, teenager, minor, young adult, high schooler, etc. These keywords will be your starting search terms.

Where should you start looking?

  1. Try going to the Research by Subject page. Pick the subject area that your course is in, or one that is related to your research. Listed for each subject are some of the best starting points to begin your research.
  2. If your professor has already specified which database you should use, you can go to the Databases A-Z list to get to that particular database.
  3. If you are working off-campus, you should always access these databases from the library’s website so that you get the full access you are entitled to as a Miami University student. In most cases, you will be prompted to enter your Miami Unique ID and password to log in after you click on a database.

Search Strategies

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are simply the terms “and,” “or,” and “not” that are used to refine your search.

“And”: this will limit your search because it will require that BOTH words are included in your search results.
Example: “alcohol” AND “addiction” will limit your results to those that include both the words alcohol AND addiction, making your results much narrower than if you only included one of the search words.

“Or”: this will broaden your search because you will get results that contain any of the words. This is most useful for words that are synonyms or similar in meaning.
Example: “juvenile” OR “adolescent” OR “teen” will return results that contain any one of those terms.

“Not”: will limit your search to exclude the term you list after the “not.” This is helpful when you keep getting irrelevant search results that are on a different topic.
Example: “Washington” NOT “George” will return results that are not about George Washington, but may be about the state of Washington or Washington D.C. instead.


Most library catalogs and databases will allow you to use the “*” asterisk (achieved by holding down the Shift key at the same time as the number 8 key) at the right hand root of the word to return results with variant suffixes. This broadens your search to include all search terms, regardless of the word ending, that have that same base.
Example: “comput*” will return results that include: “computer,” “computing,” and “computation.”

Using Database Limiters

Most databases have features built right into them that will enable you to refine your search as you go. You can usually modify by date, scholarly or peer-reviewed, and type of publication (article, review, news, etc.). Look at the “Advanced Search” options to see which limiters you can use within that particular database.

Getting the Full-Text of the Article


If you have a choice between viewing/saving the article in html or pdf format, always pick the pdf format. Why? The html full-text is a web version of the article that will usually not include images, graphs, charts, etc. It will also not have page numbers, which makes it more difficult to cite. The pdf format is preferable because it is an exact copy of how the article would be found in a journal, complete with the proper page numbers, charts, images, graphs, etc. It is also a lot easier to save a pdf file for viewing later.

No Full-Text Listed? FIND IT!

In most databases, you will see a “Find It!” button below the article citation. When you click it, you will be prompting a search of all of Miami University Libraries and OhioLINK holdings to see if the article is accessible through another resource. If the article can be accessed online, you will see links to other resources that have the article. Click one of the links to access the article. If Miami has the article in print version, that information will be in the new window as well. If you do not see any holdings available, you will need to place an Interlibrary Loan request for it, or simply return to searching for another article.