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Research for Thesis & Dissertation Literature Reviews: Research Article Databases

Identify Relevant Disciplinary Databases

What fields of research are likely to care about your topic? Many research topics are interdisciplinary, so it's important to consider searching disciplinary databases that might have relevant literature. 

Searching Databases

Search Terms

illustration of subject heading list in a database

  • Brainstorm a list of possible search terms related to your topic first.
  • Once you start searching, pay attention to the terms authors use in their title and abstracts. Also, view the subject heading assigned to the article; these are the "official" controlled vocabulary the database is using to describe a given idea. 
  • Be flexible and revise your searches as needed. It's helpful to write down what terms you've used, or save your search history. 

Searching Tips

Most all databases have similar search functionalities. 

  • Quotation marks searches the database for those words together as a term; for example, "social identity".
  • An asterisk (*) searches the database for that word plus any variants of the root word. This is called truncation; an example is using the search term work* will provide results that include work OR worker OR workplace, OR worksite. You can also use this for the beginning of the term; *camp will search for camp OR encampment
  • Use the OR search fields to search for synonyms; for example, consider searching for discrimination OR bullying OR harassment

An example of using these search functions in Sociological Abstracts: 

tips for searching sociological abstracts

Multidisciplinary Databases

Journal Rankings

The following resources can help you answer the following questions, which can be helpful to consider when performing a literature review: What are the top journals in your field? Which journals are the best for your topic?