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Middle East and Islamic Studies Library Resources

A guide designed for graduate students and researchers.

Strategies for Searching Databases

Different search strategies work best for different databases; here are several of them:

“Google” searching (works best for databases such as Google, Bing, Duckduckgo, etc.)

Strategy: What would other folks looking for this kind of thing have typed?

  • Natural language phrasing
  • Common vocabulary
  • Content keywords plus form / genre keywords


  • the history of hummus
  • hummus delivery Cambridge


Full-text searching (works best for databases such as JSTOR, Project Muse, Google Scholar, Google Books, etc.)

Strategy: What words are likely to occur most often in the sources I’m looking for?

  • “Search exact phrases”
  • Proper names
  • Specific terms
  • Lots of synonyms (using “and”)


  • Hummus origin first invented food
  • History cooking Saladin
  • "Hummus bi tahini"


Index searching (best for databases such as HOLLIS+, Academic Search Premier, MLA Bibliography, etc.)

Strategy: How might an academic institution describe what I’m looking for?

  • Start with general concepts or categories
  • Lots of synonyms (using “or”)
  • Explore your results for search vocabulary


  • Islamic cooking – History
  • Food -- Religious aspects -- Islam


(with thanks to Odile Harter for permission to adapt and re-use from the UNABRIDGED: A Master Class in Library Research guide)