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MU Home » Academics » Davis Memorial Library » Research Help » Research Guides» Using Academic Search Complete

Using Academic Search Complete

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Types of Searches
How to Search

"Academic Search Complete provides full text for nearly 4,650 serials, including full text for more than 3,600 peer-reviewed titles. PDF backfiles to 1975 or further are available for well over one hundred journals... In addition to the full text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for more than 8,200 journals in the collection."

Types of Searches

Several types of searches may be conducted in this database. Terms are connected together using AND, OR, or NOT which are called Boolean operators. The process of searching with these connectors is is called Boolean searching. For additional information, see the research guide on Boolean searching.

Basic Search:

You are provided with one search box, underneath which are several options for refining your search. Type in your search term(s), remembering to separate multiple terms with AND, OR, or NOT. For example, if you are looking for articles about Shakespeare's play Hamlet, you can search for both the terms Shakespeare AND Hamlet, resulting in more than 750 citations displayed in groups of 10. If you do not use AND, OR, or NOT to connect your words, you will get few to no results. Unlike a search engine, Academic Search Complete assumes that everything typed in is a phrase unless separated by one of the connectors explained above.

Advanced Search:

You are provided with multiple search boxes with the Boolean operators added for you between each box. You can change the default connector by clicking on the drop-down menu, on the left hand side of the entry box. You can also change the default search field by clicking on the drop down menu on the right hand side of the entry box. You may want to change the search fields to reflect information that you know--the name of a specific author or title--or to specify which parts of the article record you want to search--like the abstract only. You can enter multiple terms in each box by adding AND, OR, or NOT between each term.

Subject Search:

You can browse for a term, and related terms will be displayed in an index-like format. You can then click on the link next to view for items you wish to search further, and a resulting list of citations will be displayed. This can be very helpful if keyword searches were not obtaining many results. In a database, unlike a search engine, a real person reads every article and decides what the article is about using a tool called a thesaurus which provides a list of accepted terms to use. The topics of the article are called subjects and insure that articles on the same topic are always referred to in the same way. For example, articles about capital punishment will have that as the subject term as opposed to death penalty, electric chair, lethal injection, etc.

Visual Search:

Visual search is a special way of searching using broad subjects which maps results broken down into topic areas. Topics may be broken down further, represented by circles. Specific articles are denoted by squares. Use the "show filters" button to specify date ranges or title keywords.

Publication Search:

You can search specific publications and view a list of available journals. You are presented with an alphabetical listing, but can also use the search function to find a specific journal. Then you can click on the appropriate year and then you can select the volume/issue. The resulting list will be the articles that were published in that issue. You may also use Journal Finder which will search across all of the databases the library subscribes to and print journals to which the library subscribes.

Indexes Search:

Select an index from the drop-down menu. Indexes include author, headings, geographic terms, and standard numbers (ISSN or ISBN). In the next search box, type in the term(s) you need.

Cited References:

This search lets users identify other articles which cite a specific article or author. For example, an article is identified by your instructor as a significant article in your field. Using the information from that article, you can find other articles which use the original one in their bibliographies which may show responses, positive and negative, to the original article.

Image Collection:

Searchable by keyword, with specific limiting categories.

How to Search

Step 1: Break down your research question into keywords.

For assistance with this, try the guide on Brainstorming Your Research Topic.


"I want to do a paper about the education in North Carolina."
Keywords: North Carolina and education
"I want to do a paper on how secure the Internet is."
Keywords: Internet and security

Step 2: Type your keywords into the Find Box.

Remember that keywords need to be connected using the operators: AND, OR, or NOT.

Step 3: Click on the Search Button.

Once you click on the search button, you will get your results list with 10 results listed per page.

Step 4: Decide if your search was successful.

If you got too many (hundreds or thousands of results), you may want to narrow your search some more.
If you got too few results (less than ten or twenty), you may want to broaden your search.

Step 5: Narrow or broaden your search, if necessary.

Too many results?
  • Add additional terms to your search.
  • Use some of the limiters on the search screen to limit by peer-reviewed, full-text only, publication title, publication dates, or publication type.
  • Change connectors. Use AND instead of OR.
  • Use the operator NOT to exclude unrelated materials from your search.
Not enough results?
  • Reduce the number of terms in your search.
  • Use synonyms of your keywords to obtain additional results.
  • Click on the subject terms listed in an acceptable article to take you to other articles.
  • Use the subject terms to suggest new words for your search.
  • Change connectors. Use OR instead of AND.
  • Remove limiters from the main search screen.

Step 6: Find the text for the articles you found.

There are three types of results you can get: HTML Full Text, PDF Full Text, or citation/abstract only. These results and how to access them is detailed below.

Step 6a - Obtaining HTML Full Text Results.

Click on the article title, or click on the link that says HTML Full Text. You can then print out the article. Using the print button in the database will reformat the article for printing; if you use the browser's print, it won't print properly. You can also email the article to yourself or save it to a disk.

Step 6b - Obtaining PDF Full Text Results.

Click on the link that says PDF Full Text. This will open the document in Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you are at home and you don't have Acrobat Reader, you can download it for free at its website. The article may load slowly, but you will be able to see the article exactly the way it looked in the original format, including pictures, tables, charts, and page numbers. Use the print button in Acrobat Reader window to print the article; if you use the browser's print, you will get a blank page. You can also email the article to yourself or save it to a disk.

Step 6c - Obtaining Print Copies of Non-Full Text Results.

Note the citation information. Use Journal Finder to identify if the article is available electronically or in print in the LIbrary. If the journal title is available, check to see if the Library has that volume/year. If the article is available in a hardcopy in the Library, identify which format it is in and where in the Library it is kept. Copies can be made from all formats. If the Library does not own the title, you may use the Interlibrary Loan Service for the Library to obtain the article from another library.