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Agriculture Resource Economics — Searching Scholarly Databases

Research Help

For more information beyond what is in this guide on how to do research, try Research Quick Start

Database Searching Techniques

Although you can find article citations in a database easily, finding useful and relevent articles is often difficult. Several search strategies will be useful.

Boolean logic uses and / or / not  to combine words or terms. 


bacteria or microorganisms          includes either term

microscopy and bioassay              includes both terms

turtles not migratory                        includes first term but not second term

Truncation symbol, usually the asterisk *; offers variant endings on words. 

Example: hypothe* retrieves hypothesis, hypotheses, hypothetical, etc.

Wildcard symbol, usually the question mark ?, replaces a letter or letters in the middle of a word or one letter at the end of a word. Not all databases allow wildcards.


genetic? Retrieves genetic or genetics

colo?rful Retrieves colorful or colourful

Phrase searching, to keep words together as a phrase, you usually use the quote marks around the phrase "words together"

Example:  "global warming"

Author Name - the same author may publish under versions of a name over a lifetime. Search for different combinations of the name OR with unusual last names try searching for last name, first initial with an asterisk, as in Buffo J*


Silander, John A.

Silander John Augustus

Silander J.A.

Silander J.

Proximity Searching  - linking words or phrases by their proximity to each other is a powerful search tool. Specify the number of extra words which can exist between the searched terms. Exact formatting differs between databases. To search for the word seasonal within 4 words of the word migration, in any order, here is the formatting for several popular databases:

ABI/Inform:   seasonal N/4 migration

Agricola  seasonal N4 migration

Biosis and Zoological Record:  seasonal near/4 migration
Business Source Complete:  seasonal N4 migration
CAB:  seasonal N4 migration
Earth Atmospheric & Aquatic:  seasonal N/4 migration

EconLit:  seasonal N4 migration

PubMed: seasonal N4 migration
Scopus:  seasonal W/4 migration

Scholarly Articles

Features of scholarly articles:

  • Written for experts, not a general audience
  • Published in academic journals
  • Judged by fellow experts in the field through a process called “peer-review”

A peer-reviewed article has been reviewed by experts in the field before publication, to ensure that it meets the standards of the field.

Be aware: not every item published in an academic journal is peer-reviewed. Academic journals also publish items such as editorials, book reviews,  notes from the editor, etc.

Finding Review Articles

ABI/Inform Complete   In your search include "reviews" on one line and select the subject field

AGRICOLA (via EBSCO)   In your search include "reviews" on one line and select the descriptor field.

BIOSIS Citation Index  In your search add a line and put the word "review" as a topic search
Business Source Complete  In your search include "reviews" on one line and select the subject field.

CAB Abstracts  Also known as CAB Direct. In your search include “reviews” on one line and select the descriptor field.

Earth, Atmospheric & Aquatic Science Database  Enter your search terms and then below the search boxes in the document type section scroll down select "review".

EconLit (via EBSCO)     There is no specific review article tag. In your search include "reviews" on one line and select the AllText field
PubMed   Complete your search, then select the limit "review" on the left side of the screen under "article filter".
Scopus   Type your search and then select "review" in the document type limit below the search box OR after your search limit to "review" in the document type field at the left of the search results.
Water Resources Abstracts   On the advanced search screen, type your search and then scroll down and select "review" in the Document Type menu.