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Criminal Justice Sciences

Searching in a Database

advanced search page

Search Drop-down List*

  1. TX All Text: This setting tells the database to look for the search terms anywhere in the available materials. The default 'Select a Field' option uses this option. Librarians refer to this as a keyword search. See 'Searching Using Keywords' tab for more information.
  2. AU Author: This setting lets you search for a researcher who wrote an article
  3. TI Title: This setting allows you to search for a specific article title.
  4. SU Subject Terms: This allows you to search for articles that are connected to a specific subject.See 'Searching Using Subjects' tab for more information.
  5. GE Geographic Terms: (Not available in all databases): This setting allows you to search for articles with specific geographic locations.
  6. CO Company Entity: (Not available in all databases): This setting allows you to search for articles about a specific company.
  7. SO Journal Name: This setting allows you to search for articles that were published in a specific journal.

Top Bar

  1. Publications: This button will open up a searchable list of the journals that are collected by this database.
  2. Subject Terms: This button will open up a thesaurus that allows the user to search for subject terms. Because subjects are specific vocabulary, the user must know the terminology used by that particular database. Depending on the database, this may also be called 'Thesaurus.'


*This drop-down list will change, depending on the database. This list of search options is also not exhaustive. I am just highlighting some commonly-used options.

What are keywords?:

Keywords are search terms specific to, and descriptive of, your research question. They are not necessarily based on known terms within the database. They can be any term that relates to your research. When keyword searching, you are guessing the words you enter will match terms used in a set of articles.

Where does the database search for keywords?:*

The database searches for keywords anywhere in the article (article title, abstract, journal name, full text, etc.).

Pros and Cons:


  • Often will yield more search results
  • Can be very specific to your research question
  • User can include synonyms of each term in the search boxes to expand the results list.


  • Database only finds the term if you enter it exactly in the search box. If you enter a keyword the author doesn't specifically use, the article won't come up, even if the article is about the concept. You must include all the correct synonyms or else you will miss relevant articles. 
  • If a keyword shows up in an irrelevant article, it will still come up in the results list.
  • Without the right combination of keywords, the results list may either be large and unwieldy or filled with irrelevant results.


Original Idea: female police officers

Synonyms: "policewomen," "lady officers,"  "women in law enforcement"


*A demonstration of these concepts can be found in the 'CJ Abstracts' tab on the How To: Find Articles page.

What are subjects?:

Subject term are standardized words that are used to describe a main concepts of an article. When an article is added to a database, the database will assign subject terms to it from the database's list of subjects.

Where does the database search for subjects?:*

When a user searches using subject terms, the database only searches within the "Subject" field of the articles' records.

Pros and Cons:


  • Results will typically be more relevant than initial keyword searches
  • Results lists will typically be shorter than initial keyword searches
  • Can be used in combination with keywords in an advanced search.


  • Not all ideas have related subject terms
  • Not all articles will include every related subject term. Searching this way may exclude related articles


If you are searching for female police officers and search in the thesaurus, the official subject term in several databases is "Policewomen." Articles that include women officers as a main theme will use this term in their subject list.


*A demonstration of these concepts can be found in the 'CJ Abstracts' tab on the How To: Find Articles page.

Mutli-Subject Databases Subject Specific Databases  


Databases that collect resources not necessarily on a specific research area. These databases can either collect content on a variety of topics, or any topic. Databases the collect resources related to a specific topic or area of research.         
  1. Can be helpful for interdisciplinary topics.
  2. Can help get different perspectives on a topic.
  3. Searches will bring back more results.
  4. Can be a good place to start your research or if you're not sure what kinds of research exists on a topic.
  1. Can present a more relevant set of results on specific topics.
  2. Results will bring back results based on the theories/themes presented in that research area.
  3. Searches will bring back fewer results for faster review
  4. Can be a good place to start if you know what kind of resources you need.

Searches may come back with unwieldy lists of results. Results may be too broad for the user to find what they need.

Important articles may be left out. Relevant ideas may be not be present in the results because they fall outside the specific definitions of the database. 

  • Milner's Article Search (Tab)
  • Academic Search Complete
  • Google Scholar
  • Criminal Justice Abstracts
  • National Criminal Justice Reference Service
  • SocINDEX
  • PAIS Index

Finding New Content after Initial Search

Social Sciences Librarian

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Grace Allbaugh
Milner Office: Room 415
To make an appointment to use Milner services in the building, please email me.

Schroeder Hall Room 432
Thursdays, 2:30-4:30 PM
No appointment necessary.
(Not in Schroeder office currently. Email me with any questions)
(309) 438-5313