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OUA students' guide: Searching databases

This guide has been developed for Open Universities Australia students studying at Curtin University. Some sections of the guide will be relevant for any Curtin University, UniReady or Open Universities Australia student.

What is...?

What is a journal article?
Journals are similar to magazines in that they are published regularly (eg monthly).

Articles in journals are more in-depth and well-researched than magazine articles. They are written by experts in a particular field of study, and are based on the author's research.

Most of the library's journal articles are accessed electronically through the journal databases.  This video, produced by the Library staff, describes how to find them.

What is a peer reviewed journal?
This is a journal where experts in the same subject area as the author must review and approve the articles before they are published. Similar terms used are: refereed journal, scholarly journal and academic journal.

Watch this video, produced by the Library staff, which explains what a scholarly journal is.

What is a database?
Journal databases are huge, searchable, up-to-date indexes of journal references.  This video, produced by the Library staff, tells you what library databases are.

They help you to find high quality, up-to-date journal articles that have been published by respected publishers and publications. 

If you have been asked to find scholarly articles for your assignment, you will need to search a database.

This video, prepared by the Library staff for a specific unit in Education, shows you how you can search a database that Curtin Library subscribes to.

To access Curtin's multitude of Databases, you will need to:

  • Go to the library homepage (
  • Click on Databases(under Library links)
  • Click on a letter to see the list of subscribed databases starting with that letter, OR use the drop-down boxes to see a list of databases based on subject or user group.
  • If it's considered a popular database, you might be able to find it under the Popular Databases list - simply click on the relevant link

Note: you'll need to be logged on to OASIS (using your username and password) to access all of the databases.

What is a DOI?

A DOI is a Digital Object Identifier, which is used to uniquely identify an object, for example a journal article, in the digital environment.  Find out more about DOIs and their uses here:

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Boolean operators

Need to search a database? Watch this Boolean clip from the University of Auckland, to learn how to combine search terms.

Search strategy

When you are searching for information on a topic, you need to work out the key concepts or ideas of your topic. You can download and print the worksheet below to help you develop your search strategy. 

For more information, look at our tutorial on Analysing your assignment topic.

Truncation and wildcards

  • Truncation symbols: search for variations of a word. 
    e.g. manag* searches for manage, manager, management, managing etc.
  • Wildcard symbols: use in place of a letter or a string of letters. 
    e.g. search for the British and American spellings of organise by typing organi?e

Different databases treat truncation and wildcard symbols in different ways. To check what symbols you should use in a particular database, check the help pages. Open the document above for some common examples of truncation and wildcard symbols. 

Find It

Find it links allow you to check whether a specific journal article is available at Curtin.