You can use either Basic or Advanced Search on many databases; Basic is good for finding out the breadth of a topic, and Advanced helps to focus your search results.
If you are starting from the library homepage (http://library.sjsu.edu), click on the "Articles & Databases" link in the Quick Links side bar. From there you will go to a listing of all the SJSU accessible databases. If you know the name of your database, click on the first letter of the title in the "Browse Databases by Title" section at the top of the page. Alternatively, you can click on the broader subject of your choice under "Browse Databases by Subject Area" in the middle of the page.
When you have found a relevant database, start with 1-3 keywords related to your topic. Not enough results? Try using synonyms for your keywords, or enter fewer keywords. Too many results? Often there is a "Narrow Results by" or "Modify Search" side bar that will help.
For literature based databases, typing in the author's name (usually last name, first name) is a good place to begin. You can change the search field with a drop down menu to "Author: Personal" in Humanities Full-text, or do a "Person Search" in Literature Resource Center.
Explore the search fields in these databases - you can also limit by document type or subject.