Answered By: Colin Magee
Last Updated: Aug 10, 2022     Views: 8


Today you're going to do some searching using the library's ProQuest database. ProQuest is the library's largest database. Unlike the Gale Opposing Viewpoints database, which was good at finding pros and cons on a topic, ProQuest is more for doing scholarly research.  It's kind of tricky to get the hang of, so today we'll look at some search strategies and how to filter your search results to get the information that you need.


Madisonville Community College website with the "Quick links" highlighted and "Current Students" selected.

To access ProQuest, you'll first need to go to the library's website. You can get there through MyPath, or go to the college's website: Go to "Quick Links" at the top, then "Current Students."


"Current Students" page of the MCC website, with the tile for "Library" highlighted.

From Current Students, go to "Library."


MCC Library website, with the tile for "Research databases" selected.

Now that you're at the library's website, go down to the "Research Databases" tile.


The tile for "ProQuest" is highlighted on the "Research Databases" page

From this page, ProQuest is the first tile on there. Be sure to log in with your KCTCS username and password if prompted.


The ProQuest landing page features a search box.  Highlighted are the tab for "All" and the checkbox for "full text."  The word Water is entered into the search box.

ProQuest is actually a collection of different databases, which is why it says you're searching 6 different ones. One of the databases is an Ebook collection called ProQuest Ebook Central, and one is a streaming video collection called Academic Video Online. If you wanted to search specifically for books or for videos, you can click the tab above the search box for "books" or for "videos & audio."  The main database in ProQuest is ProQuest Central, which is a massive database for finding articles from newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. You're probably better off searching the whole thing, so make sure the tab above the search box is set to "All," and make sure the checkbox below the search box is set to "full text."


Search strategies

Search results page in ProQuest for the search "water."

You're going to focus your search today on water supply issues. Just to illustrate how big ProQuest is, I'm going to type in water and we'll see how many results we get. 

38 million results. So you can see why it's a good idea to use some search strategies to help you narrow down your search results.


The search for water turned up 1.3 million results.  The words "water" and "shortages" are entered into the search box.

First of all, water is too broad to use as a search term. I'm going to type in water shortages and we'll see what happens.

Now we're down to 1.3 million results. If you look at the titles in your search results, it's doing a pretty good job of finding me articles that have water shortages, or water shortage in the title. The problem is, it's searching for the word water and it's also searching for the word shortages.


The search for water shortages turned up 300 thousand results.  The phrase "water shortages" in quotation marks is entered into the search box.

You can combine the two words into a phrase by putting quotation marks around the two words.

Now we're down to 389 thousand results. In your search results, it's only showing you articles where water and shortages or water and shortage appear next to each other in the title or the description. So quotations are the most useful way to make a narrower search.


The search for the phrase "water shortages" turned up 42 thousand results.  The phrase "water shortages" AND africa is entered into the search box.

The other tip is to combine other words to your phrase. I'm going to type "water shortages" in quotation marks, AND africa. Now it's going to narrow everything to just dealing with water shortages in Africa. 42 thousand results.


At the bottom of the search results, the suggested search "water shortages AND climate change" is highlighted.

If you scroll to the bottom of your search results, ProQuest will suggest other ways to narrow your search. This gives you some ideas. Let's click on "water shortages AND climate change."


The phrase (SU.exact("WATER SHORTAGES") AND SU.exact("CLIMATE CHANGE")) is entered into the search box

You can see in the search box that it is searching two different phrases now, joined with the word AND. But it's also treating each phrase as an exact subject. That's what the SU.exact means. Basically, each article in the database is tagged with exact subject terms depending on what it's about. Don't worry too much about this -- it might make your searching too narrow. Just stick with the quotation marks for now.


Your turn

Take a few minutes to practice this on your own, and then in the next video we'll look at filtering.


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