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HMSV 440W & HMSV 343: Program Development and Methods

Database Search Tips (Finding Articles)


My agency is the YMCA After-School Program at Ghent Elementary School. I want to know how elementary school students benefit from the services that it provides, including homework help, focus on character development, and social growth.

PRO TIP: To find research related to this topic, it will be best to branch out at first and search for after-school programs for elementary school students in-general, and not just YMCA programs in a specific school system.

Possible keywords: "after school," "homework help," "after care," "character development," "elementary school," "academic achievement," "social growth," "social skills," "after school program," "community program"

PRO TIP: After you brainstorm many keywords, start with 2-4 keywords for your search. For example, I may use: "after school program" and elementary and "academic achievement" as a first try at searching.


"after school program" AND elementary will find articles about after school programs in elementary schools.

(elementary OR primary) will find articles that are about elementary schools or primary schools. When using OR be sure to put those keywords together in parentheses.

elementary NOT "middle school" will find articles about elementary schools and not middle schools.



  • Use quotation marks with phrases to keep relevant results near the top of your results. For example, "after school"
  • Start simple and broad, then work from there. After you see what is available, you can add in more keywords to make your results more specific.
  • Look at the references in articles related to your topic. Chances are, some of them will be useful, and many databases provide direct links to references.

Most databases include the following features, usually located on the left-hand side of the screen or accessed by clicking on the article title. Look for them, and use them!

  • Limit to peer-reviewed journals. This is not a 100% safety net but it is a good start. You'll still need to check to make sure that a resource is a research article and not a book review or editorial.
  • Limit by date. You will want to find more recent research related to your agency.
  • Email, cite, save. These tools can usually be accessed after clicking on an article title. Be careful with the cite feature, it often makes mistakes!

Remember, if you need full-text of an article and it isn't available, request it through Interlibrary Loan!

You will not find "one perfect source" for your topic. You'll probably find several articles that focus on one aspect of the agency that you want to focus on. For example, you may find an article about an after school program that focuses on homework help, but it may not be associated with the YMCA. You also may find an article that talks about how after school programs can help with character development and social growth, but may not focus on academic achievement.

The great thing about your MIND MAP is that it will allow you to see how all of the elements of your articles can connect.

Tips for keeping track of your research:

  • Keep a journal, or write down the search strategies that you try in each database.
  • Save your articles in one place and name the files so that they make sense to you.
  • Take notes on each article. Before beginning your assignments, read each article and summarize the main points of the purpose and conclusions.