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Databases, research tools, and other useful resources related to Commerce.

Searching the Literature

Google Scholar can be a useful online tool that you may use.  However, for most literature reviews you will need to focus on academically authoritative texts like academic books, journals, research reports, government publications.  It is better to use the UVa Library databases, books, ebooks, journals and other resources, focusing on the key words and checking the bibliography of works that you find most useful.

The search process is recursive--you'll do one search, choose the best resources, and search again using the knowledge you gained from the search before. You can assess the strength and value of your keywords and refine the results all from the page displaying your list of results. ​ 

  • Evaluate the strength of your keywords:  First, check the "search returned" number --a large number means your keyword/s are too general, and a small number means that your keyword/s are too specific (or are spelled incorrectly).  Next, scan your search results--do you have a keyword match in the title, subject, abstract, and/or full text?
  • Manipulate the list of results to see if you can get what you really want: Use the built-in tools to see if you can do better: adjust the date range; use the subjects box; select document type/s.
  • Find out if you are on the right track:  Click on the title to any items that look promising, then: read the abstract; read the list of subjects to see if you can be using different keywords; click on any subject link to see other articles similar to the one you're viewing.
  • Save:  Email or download any items that you want to keep.  Write down / type up a list of the keywords that you used in your search--save time later by keeping track of work you have already done. 

As you search, consider these additional strategies:

  • Searching for a Complex Topic
  • Searching for a Complex Idea
  • Searching for multiple keywords and/or ideas at the same time.

Searching for a complex topic uses Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT.  They are used to combine keywords to increase the chances of finding relevant sources.  Place your most important keyword first in your string.  Always use caps for the Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT.  Many databases require them to be capitalized. Some databases and search engines spell out Boolean operators as phrases:

  • "all of the words" or "must contain" represent AND
  • "any of the words" or "should contain"represent OR
  • "must not contain" represents NOT

Searching for a complex idea uses non-boolean operators: " " (double quotation marks) and ( ) (parentheses). Searching for multiple ideas or keywords simultaneously uses other operators: # or ? (wildcards) and * (truncation). 

Below are examples using EBSCO Business Source Complete. Many databases work similarly, but remember to check for difference in procedures.

Database Search Strategies

Searching for a complex topic uses Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT.  They are used to combine keywords to increase the chances of finding relevant sources.   

AND combines keywords to find only the resources that combine all of your keywords.  Use AND when you want to get to many results. 

EBSCOhost search using AND










OR is used to help you determine which topic is best by searching for all of the keywords.  Use OR when you don't get enough results. 

EBSCOhost search using OR

NOT is used to exclude specific keywords from the search.  Use NOT when you want to narrow your focus.

EBSCOhost search using NOT


Source: EBSCO Information Services - Searching with Boolean Operators

Searching for a complex idea uses non-boolean operators: " " (double quotation marks) or ( ) (parentheses).  

Using quotation marks (" ") forces a database to find items that contain that exact phrase or words in the order you entered.  

Using parentheses ( ) provides order for a complicated search.  This is sometimes called nesting.  It is helpful when using more than one operator and 3 or more keywords. Use it to keep your OR's or AND's together.

Searching for multiple ideas or keywords simultaneously uses other operators: # or ? (wildcards) and * (truncation).

A wildcard is represented by a hash or pound sign (#) or by a question mark (?).

colo#r returns both color and colour.  The # wildcard is placed where an alternate spelling would include a different character.

ne?t returns nest, next, neXT,  The ? wildcard replaces a single character, so it returns any subject term that starts with ne and ends with t. 


An * is used for truncation.  You use it by entering the root of a word, replacing the ending with an *.  recycl* returns recycling, recyclable, and recycled. 


Source: EBSCO Information Services - Searching with Wildcards and Truncation.