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DAH250: Getting Started with Research

Library Databases: Excellent Resources to Search for Articles & More...

What is a library database?

A library database is a searchable collection of different resources including articles from magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals, streaming videos, images, and more. You can find lots of great information for your research assignment in the library databases.

Library databases are different than Google. The information contained in databases is not freely available via a google search.  You have access to the databases as an SCC student, so when you access a database from off campus you will be prompted to login with your MEID and password.  

Getting Started with Research

Step 1: Background Info 

Before you dive into your research, it may be helpful to do some pre-research.  Pre-research can help you to gather background information about your topic, identify keywords, and make the research process more efficient. To gather background information, you can read encyclopedia articles or other reference articles to gain an overview of your topic and all the different aspects that relate to it. With a strong understanding of your topic, you will be able to identify more specific issues to further research.  You can find overview articles and background information using the databases listed in the box to the right. Below is a few examples of the types of articles you can find in the databases listed to the right.

While you read through the articles, you will want to take note of important terminology or keywords including styles of dance, significant people, important events, etc.  Keywords are your *key* to relevant search results when you begin researching.

Next: Select the tab, Step 2: Keywords


Databases deliver the best results when you search using specific keywords or short phrases rather than full sentences, questions, or strings of words. Thinking about your topic can help you to identify relevant keywords. You can also use the background readings to identify keywords.  As you read through those articles, take note of the terms and keywords that are used.  Keep a log of these keywords, you will need them when you are ready to search the databases. 

What makes a good keyword?

Good keywords are single words (usually nouns)  OR specific phrases (two or more words that must go together to make sense).  Here is an example of some keywords and phrases:

  • "swing dance"

  • "civil rights"

  • "Alvin Ailey"

  • "lindy hop"

  • feminism

  • segregation

  • stereotypes

Search Statements

Once you have a list of keywords, you can create search statements. A search statement is made up of two or more keywords connected with the word AND. The search statement is what you will type into the search box in the database.  Remember, searching databases is different than searching Google, so you must search in the way the database will best respond.  Here is a few examples of search statements.

  • "swing dance" AND "civil rights" - this search statement will return results that include both of these keyphrases

  • stereotypes AND racism - this search statement will return results that include both of these keywords, but the results may not be related to dance.

  • Be sure to include relevant terms in the search statement. Try stereotypes AND racism AND "swing dance"

Search Tips 

  1. Quotes - use quotes around two or more words that must go together.  This tells the database to search for that exact phrase. Avoid putting quotes around words that do not need to be an exact phrase.  For example:
    Instead of searching "lindy hop choreography" try searching  "lindy hop" AND choreography 

  2. Synonyms and Related Terms - Think about synonyms and related terms for keywords that can be used in searching. 

    1. If you are searching for "social dance", also try "popular dance"

      1. Search statement 1: "social dance" AND racism

      2. Search statement 2: "popular dance" AND racism

    2. If you are searching for "dance club" also try "dance hall"

      1. Search statement 1: "dance club" AND sexuality

      2. Search statement 2: "dance hall" AND sexuality

  3. Read your search statement: Does the search statement include the relevant terms for what you are looking for?  Remember you may need to search several times with different search statements.  Try different combinations of keywords to get different results.  Switch out synonyms or related terms. 

  4. Add keywords as needed: If you notice your search results are focused on dance from other countries, you can add the keyword phrase, "United States". For example: feminism AND "social dance" AND "United States"

Next: Select the tab, Step 3: Search Databases

Database Searching 

Now that you have at least a few search statements ready to go, you can begin to search for information in the library databases.  You can use the library's OneSearch  (searches multiple databases at once) or you can choose to search within a specific database such as International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance with Full Text and others listed in the box to the right. 

Search Options

Utilizing search options will help you narrow down or make your search results more specific by letting you select the options you want. Each library database may look different, but all have similar search options, or what we sometimes call filters or limiters.  These are some options to look for:

  1. Full text: Select this option to view results you can read entirely online, i.e. articles, ebooks, etc. 

  2. Scholarly/Peer Review: Choose this option to view articles from scholarly and peer-reviewed journals. This will remove magazine and newspaper articles from your list of results.  

  3. Format, Content, or Source type: Choose a particular type of resource such as a book, newspaper article, etc. For example, if you select newspaper, then only newspaper articles will appear in your result list.

  4. Publication Date: Choose to limit results to a particular date range. This can be helpful to filter out older information if you select to look at information published within the last three, five, or ten years.  

Watch OneSearch basics for search tips.


Next step: Choose Tab 4: Examine Search Results

Search Results

  1. Click on a title from the results list to get more information about it.  You will be able to view the author, publication, etc information, as well as access the full text if applicable. 
  2. Other helpful information that you may find is a list of keywords or subject terms.  Think of these terms as tags that have been selected because they are keywords closely associated with the content of the article, book, or video.  In other words, if you like the source, try using the suggested keywords in a search statement to find more like it. 
  3. You can also find tools for printing, emailing, and citing. Also, see the Citing Sources tab at the top of the page for more info on citing. 

Next Steps
  1. Read the descriptions or abstracts (summaries) or skim through sources before deciding if it is a good source for you. Don't rely just on the title.  As you read, take note of important keywords that you can include in your search statements. 
  2. Revise search statements as needed. Try searching with different keywords and in different databases for comprehensive research.
  3. Check out the ebooks tab for suggested readings
  4. Get help from a librarian if you have questions about your research. Visit us when the library is open, or chat with a librarian 24/7


Here are the topic areas your instructor would like you to choose from.  Select one and begin searching for background information using the library databases below.  

  • Race/Civil Rights Movement/racial equality & inequality
  • Feminism/women’s rights
  • LGBTQ movement/rights
  • Economics/economic status
  • Immigration
  • Urbanization

Databases to Search for Background information

Use these databases to search for background information about your topic.