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Use this guide to help with research throughout the MBA program, including industry and company research, marketing, writing literature reviews, and citing sources in APA.

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Dan Hoiland

Get the Most Out of Your Searches

Having trouble using Library databases to find what you need? See below for tips to improve your searches and help you quickly find relevant resources.

Tips for Searching in Library Databases

1. Condense your topic into 2-4 keywords

After identifying a topic and developing a research question, break it down into 2-4 words or short phrases. For example, if your research question is, "How does a remote work policy affect employee productivity in an organization?", the keywords could be remote work and productivity. From those two terms, there is a better chance the database understands what you are searching for than if you typed in the whole question. 


2. Limit your search results by source type and/or date

After selecting several keywords, try a test search in a database. From the library homepage ( or a course research guide, select a database that fits your information needs. Enter your keywords into the search fields and click Search. First thing, look at the total number of results. If you notice that there are too many (maybe ~10,000 or more), you can limit the results by using the tools built into the database. For example, if you are searching within ABI/INFORM, you can limit by Publication Date (for when you need to find articles published in the last ~5 years) or Source Type, such as peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles or trade journal articles. This can help you filter out what you don't need to see, leaving only the more relevant articles. In many cases, the "sweet spot" is around 100-1,000 results -- not too many to be overwhelming, but also not too few so as to be a dead-end.


3. Adapt your search terms to what you see being used in the database

If your search results do not seem relevant to what you're looking for, pay attention to the words/terms the database is using to describe different topics. Specifically, look for a Subject list. Subjects act like tags, allowing the database to organize articles by general topics. By searching with those words -- possibly synonyms to your original keywords -- you'll have a better chance of finding relevant sources. Keep in mind, each database may list these Subject terms differently. For instance, in ABI/INFORM, you need to click on "Show Abstract" to the bottom right of each result to see Subjects; whereas, in Business Source Ultimate, you can see the Subjects from the main results page. For example, in the image below, the database lists "Work at home" as a subject term. You might consider substituting it for the original search term, "remote work," to expand your results.


4. Use articles' references to springboard your own research

Found a relevant source for your topic? Nice work! Before you move on to other articles, be sure to also check out its works cited or bibliography to find the articles used when writing the paper. Chances are, if the original paper is relevant to you, the articles referenced by the authors will also be relevant. Sometimes, you can even click on each reference within the document and link directly to the cited article. If you find an article that isn't available through the library, you can always Request a Copy or contact a librarian for assistance.


5. Use the citation generator tool to save time

One benefit to using library databases to find research articles is that you can use built-in tools to auto-generate a full citation in a number of different styles, such as APA. After clicking on the title of an article to see a more detailed view, look for a "Cite" button. The location may differ depending on which database you're using, so look either on the right side (for EBSCO databases) or in the top-right corner (for ProQuest databases, shown in the screenshot below). While you're there, be sure to also save a Permalink to the article. Permalinks are more stable than copying what's in the URL bar and won't time out, making them a great way to ensure you can return to this page at a later time.