Tips on Searching in ProQuest

| December 19, 2011

As a TC student, you will likely come across ProQuest during your research. Here are a few tips for using ProQuest’s databases.

Why would I use ProQuest?

ProQuest is one of the major vendors of electronic journals, so many journals and/or articles that may be of interest to you in your research are likely to be available via a ProQuest database. Among the many specialized databases available through ProQuest, some of the most useful for TC students include ProQuest’s Education Journals, Psychology Journals, Newspapers, Research Library, and Digital Dissertations. A full listing of ProQuest databases as well as links to the journals included in them can be found here.

How do I find an article on a ProQuest database?

ProQuest automatically takes you to an advanced search.  This is a good thing, as it allows you to specify what you are looking for. Here’s what it looks like:

If you know the name of the author, document title, or publication title, just type that in and choose the appropriate field in the drop-down box next to your search bar.

You can also search by subject, but be careful: a subject search is not a keyword search! A subject search is based on specific subject headings. Luckily, ProQuest helps you out on this. When you select “subject” in the drop-down box next to the search bar, a link comes up next to it called “look up subjects.” There, you can type in what you think may be the subject of the material you are searching for, and ProQuest will provide you with subject headings that are close alphabetically to what you typed. For suggestions that are related to the topic you are looking for rather than alphabetically close to it, go ahead and try a subject search using whatever you think might be the correct subject heading. At the top of the results page, you should get a box of suggested subject headings. For example, when I searched for “early childhood” as a subject, the following box of subject headings came up:

I can then click on the most relevant subject for my search, and more relevant articles connected to that specific subject should come up in my results.

Are there any special tricks to make searching easier?

Yes! ProQuest provides a handy “Search Tips” page, which you can access here. Some important things to note from these search tips are that two word searches (such as early childhood) are searched as an exact phrase by default, and three word searches (such as early childhood education) are searched as individual words that need to appear close to one another.

Are there ways to limit my results?

Yes. If your initial search returns too many results, you can limit the results shown in several handy ways.

First, you can limit by document type by clicking on the tabs listing the different document types (scholarly journals, magazines, trade publications, reference/reports, and working papers).

You can also limit results to full text only by clicking on the link “show only full text” in the yellow bar above the results.

Finally, you can refine your search. This allows you to narrow your results by one or many of the following limitations: database, date range, publication, subject, location, document feature, company, person, document type, and publication type. You can also choose whether to include dissertations, book reviews, and newspapers.

What is different in the new ProQuest platform?

So far, these tips are related to the ProQuest platform that is available directly through the TC library website. ProQuest has recently launched a new platform, which you may encounter if you find a database on the Columbia Library website. The advanced search options for the new platform are much the same as the older version. The main advantage of the new platform is the variety of easy-to-use limitations. For each search, a sidebar appears on the right with limitation options, as you can see below:

The new platform is more attractive and, because of these handy limiters, more easy to use. With these tips, though, you should be able to find your way around either version well!