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ENGL 3030: Down to Articles

Introduction to Rhetorical Studies


Many of the databases that we subscribe to come from EbscoHost. That means they will operate pretty much the same. You can choose EbscoHost to see which databases we have -- it's on the database page. Just change to database name and click on E. Then find EbscoHost and click on it...

Basic and Advanced Searching

They are very easy to use. There is always a default Basic Search which allows you to search for one concept. If you want to search for multiple concepts, click on Advanced Search.


You may need to limit your results list to peer-reviewed articles. EbscoHost databases offer you the chance to click on a box to do that. There's no need to click on the full text because we have the Find It option. See the box on this page that describes how that works. You probably will want to limit the publication type to articles though. Some databases from EbscoHost, like PsycInfo, offer many more limits but they are specific to people in that field so you don't need to worry about them. They key is to use the limits to narrow the results you get so you don't have to browse through so many

Symbols Explained

  = click on this button to retrieve full-text if available from a database that Joyner subscribes to.

   = click here to find out about the database

 = indicates that the databases is full-text

Choosing Keywords (HELP from MIT)

Guide Home >> Keyword vs. Subject Searching

The key to being a savvy online searcher is to use common search techniques that you can apply to any database. These will enable you to retrieve relevant information from the thousands of records in a database.

Keyword vs. Subject Searching:
Searching by subject headings (a.k.a. descriptors) is often the most effective and precise way to search bibliographic databases. However, keyword searching has its benefits too. Here are some key points about each:




natural language words describing your topic - good to start with


pre-defined "controlled vocabulary" words used to describe the content of each item (book, journal article) in a database

more flexible to search by - can combine together in many ways


less flexible to search by - need to know the exact controlled vocabulary term

database looks for keywords anywhere in the record - not necessarily connected together


database looks for subjects only in the subject heading or descriptor field, where the most relevant words appear

may yield too many or too few results


if too many results - also uses subheadings to focus on one aspect of the broader subject

may yield many irrelevant results


results usually very relevant to the topic


What are subject headings?

Subject headings describe the content of each item in a database. You can use these headings to find items on the same topic.

It usually is not easy to guess which subject headings are used in a given database. Lets take an example from the phone book's Yellow pages which also use subject headings. If you look for the heading "Movie Theatres" you will find nothing. Movie theatres are listed under the heading "Theatres -Movies."

How can you find out which subject headings are used?

Knowing the right subject headings to use will help make your searching more precise, but how can you find the subject headings for your particular database?

·     Look to see if your database has an online thesaurus that you can browse to find the subject heading(s) that best match your topic.

·     Some databases also publish their thesauri in print (e.g. the Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms, which corresponds to the PsycInfo database).

Another method in finding subject headings on your topic is to:

·     Start by doing a keyword search, using words or phrases describing your topic.

·     Browse through your results list and choose two or three relevant results.

·     Notice the Subject or Descriptor field in those relevant records and note the terms used. Keep a list of them to help you remember.

·     Redo your search using the subjects or descriptors you identify. Your results will be much more precise than those from your initial keyword search.

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