Business Research 101

Research 102

Select the appropriate place to look for the information you need

Not all databases are created equally. Some have better coverage of certain subject areas than others.

Determine if you need business articles, company information, financial information or statistical data. This will help you chose the best databases to begin your research.

Use the various research guides on the Walker Library Page to help you begin your research.

Understand how the database actually works to get the best results.

Is it searching the full-text of all the documents in the database? Can you use features to focus your search in specific areas such as the title or subject?

Is the database a simple or complex search interface? In other words, if it gives you one line to search, keep it as simple as you can. If there is more than one search box or options, look at them to decide the best way to take advantage of them.

Choose search terms

Select words that relate to major concepts of your information need.

Synonyms- how might other people describe this concept? What other words mean essentially the same thing? This matters because the computer will look for precisely the LETTERS/WORDS that you input. If you only type "cell phone" you won't get "mobile phone." Search both like this: "cell phone" OR "mobile phone."

Avoid common stop words: They are a, an, the, of, in (unless you use them within a phrase search with quotation marks). Stop words are ones that are not searchable because they occur so frequently - unless you place them in quotes exactly as it appears here: "employee of the month".

Use multiple search terms connected with Boolean or Proximity Operators

The Boolean or proximity operators create relationships between the words in a search strategy. Most databases have Help or Search Tips which will help you use them to the best advantage. The most common ones used are the words AND, OR and NOT. Below are examples of how they work:

AND - used when all terms must be present in the search results.

Example: Unemployment AND "free trade"

OR - used when either term can be present

Example: "cell phone" OR "mobile phone"

NOT - used when you do not want that word to appear

Example: candy NOT chocolate

Truncation and wildcard use

Replace letters at the beginning or end of a word (truncation) or in the middle (wildcard) in order to retrieve different variants of a word.


market* will find market, markets, marketing, marketed, marketer, etc.

wom?n will find woman or women

Databases use different symbols to represent truncation and wildcards. For truncation, most tend to use an asterisk * but some use dollar signs $ or a question mark ?.

Field Specific Searches

A field is a part of an information record in the database. Using a field search helps you focus the search results to a specific item such as Journal or Company name.

Here are some sample database searches from Business Source Premier. These examples are models to give you information on how to use a database's special features.

Journal Name Search: find articles in Business Week about healthcare.

Type Business Week in the first search box; in the right hand box, use the Pull Down menu to choose PUBLICATION NAME

In the second line search box, type health*; in the right hand box, use the Pull Down menu to choose SUBJECT

Then search.

Company Name Search: Find information about the Home Depot

Type Home Depot in the first search box; in the right hand box, use the Pull Down menu to choose COMPANY ENTITY

Then search. Note the Options inside the double banner on the results page. You can click on these to further limit your search to SWOT, Company Profiles, Industry Reports, Market Research, etc.

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