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Constitutional Research: Databases

A LibGuide reference for Mr. Maher's Constitutional Research paper

Database Collection @ VHSLC

Using Databases

Research databases provide students with access to academic and reliable materials and is a necessary tool in any research project. Databases use different algorithms than Google does, so use the following tips in order to get better results:
  • Spelling counts: Databases are case sensitive - therefore make sure you capitalize and spell your terms correctly
  • Avoid Stop Words:  unlike Google - databases will count commonly use words and using them will yield you too many results. Avoid a, an, the, in , of, on, are, be, if, into, which. Make sure all your terms are important to your search
  • Phrase Search: When you are typing a phrase into a database, write it in quotations (i.e. "U.S. Civil War") - otherwise it will search it as separate terms
  • Advanced Search
    • Boolean operators: within advanced searching, you may include various operators in order to yield more specific results to complex search terms. The most basic Boolean operators are AND, OR, NOT
      • Civil War AND nurses
      • Civil War NOT Confederacy
      • Civil War OR "the gilded age"
    • Other operators are NEAR 5, NEAR 10, NEAR 15. These will search for two keywords that are 5, 10, or 15 words away from each other
    • Within advanced search you may also modify the search fields to narrow  your result by file type, author, date of publication, language, type/subject of journal, and peer-reviewed. The options of fields varies by database. 
  • Truncation Search: in order to expand your keyword search, you may use truncation to include various word endings and spellings (ex. child* = children, childhood)
  • Read the Abstract: many articles may be very long and may not connect to your topic. Read the abstract, and if that isn't available, read the first and last page of the article.

Recommended VHSLC Databases

Below are comprehensive, student-friendly, database provided to you through the VHSLC. GALE is highly recommended as a start for your project as it provides topic pages, through which you can browse specific amendments, laws, and cases. This is a recommended list, for a complete list, please visit the link above.