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Literature Review Challenge

Welcome to Day 3 of the Literature Review Challenge!


Today we will look at how to:

  • Match your research needs to an appropriate library database
  • Use different types of searching language in a library database

Choosing a Library Database for Journal Articles in Your Field of Study

Adler Library subscribes to many subject-specific article databases, each of which index the scholarly literature in a particular field of study. An alphabetical list of library databases can be found on the library webpage.
Below is a sample list of the library's subject-specific databases.
Think about which field(s) of study might be talking about your topic and select a subject database for that discipline.






APA PsycInfo Business Source Elite PubMed Central ERIC GenderWatch

ProQuest Psychology Journals


Note: There are also "multi-disciplinary" or interdisciplinary article databases which index the scholarly literature across multiple fields of study.  Examples of multi-disciplinary databases are:  Academic Search Complete and Google Scholar.

Video: Database Searching by Keywords and Subject Headings

pointing finger
Watch the following short video from USU libraries which explains the different types of database searching language.
Then proceed to the Day 3 ACTIVITY box.


Comparison of Searching by Keywords vs. Subject Terms

Keywords Subject Headings
  • Natural language - user generated
  • Controlled vocabulary used to describe a subject
  • Could appear only once - anywhere in abstract or title
  • Database applies subject headings to each resource, based on topic/subject of resource (adds specificity to your search)
  • No related terms are found, but homonyms might be (words spelled the same, but with different meanings)
  • Exist in a thesaurus, so helps you find related terms, weed out homonyms
  • Like using Ctrl+F in a document
  • All variations (spellings) are covered
  • Useful when: topic is very new, or looking for specific person/organization
  • Useful when: topic has established academic research on it, and you want highly relevant results


Day 3 Activity



Choose a library subject-specific database from the table in the box above and complete two searches: 


  1. Search using a keyword term from your Day 2 Venn diagram.
  • Note the number of search results and the relevance of articles in the results list.
  • If you are NOT using APA PsycInfo, scan the results list to find the subject terms assigned to the relevant articles.
  1. Search using a subject term that you found in your first search.
  • Remember: subject terms differ across library databases, therefore you first must look up the exact subject term in each database. You can do this in some databases, such as Academic Search Complete and SocAbstracts, by using the Thesaurus. In other databases (such as PsycINFO), when you enter the keyword that you are searching for it will tell you the correct subject heading to use.
  1. Compare the number of results and the relevance of articles between your subject term search and your keyword search