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Understanding Databases

A guide to help you navigate online databases.

Boolean Operators - Using AND, OR, NOT

Most databases use Boolean operators to determine how your search terms are combined in the search. The Boolean Operators use the words AND, OR, NOT to combine keywords and thus broaden or narrow your search results. 


  • AND searches find all of the search terms.  For example, searching on Australia AND Church AND History returns only results that contain all three search terms.  Very limited results.

  • OR searches find one term or the other.  Searching on Australia OR Church OR History returns all items that contain any of the three search terms.  Returns a large number of results.

  • NOT eliminates items that contain the specified term.  Searching on Australia NOT Church returns items that are about Australia, but will specifically NOT return items that contain the word Church.  This is a way to fine-tune results. 


  • If you use different operators in the same search, you must use either round brackets or separate search lines. This is important to control the way the operators are applied in the search. (Australia OR Church) AND (History OR past) AND Vatican II.




  • Truncation is a way to broaden your searches and help save you time. Use an asterisk (*) to represent zero or more characters; e.g. searching for Europ* finds results containing Europe, Europa, European etc.

Phrase Searching

If you're searching for a phrase rather than just a single word, you can group the words together with quotation marks. 

  • To find an exact phrase match, use quotation marks around your phrase; e.g. searching for "modern art" finds content containing that exact phrase
  • To find content with search terms anywhere in a record, enter keywords without quotation marks; e.g. searching for modern art finds content containing modern and art anywhere in a record.

Understanding "Peer-Review"

What is a "peer-reviewed" article?

Your lecturers will often require you to use information from academic journal articles that are peer reviewed (also known as refereed or scholarly journals). Peer reviewed articles are credible sources of information. The articles have been written and reviewed by trusted experts in the field, and represent the best scholarship and research currently available.

A peer reviewed article is an article:

  1. Written by an expert (scholar, researcher, or professor) from the relative field.
  2. Reviewed by an editor who is considered a "peer" to the author (also a scholar, researcher, or professor)
    • The process is impartial
    • The reviewers are charged with evaluating the quality and validity of the research/methodology of the article.
  3. Published in a scholarly journal with established high editorial and research standards.

How to identify a "peer-reviewed" article?

There are multiple ways to identify a "peer-reviewed" article.

  1. Some journals simply say they are peer reviewed. If the journal does not say it, a list of editors (usually located around the masthead of the journal) is also a good indicator
  2. Go to the official journal website. If you find the journal website, look for the link that says information for authors, instructions for authors, submitting an article or something similar.
  3. Via our databases; clicking the title of the journal you wish to view, the record will say "yes" or "no" next to peer reviewed under the publication details.