The following boxes each describe a method of searching. Experiment with them to find the method that works best for your search.
A brief overview of database search techniques.
Free text, natural language or keyword searches are used with computerized databases and search engines.
+ Excellent for new concepts or terminology
+ Will retrieve lots of results
- Must think of all other synonyms
- Results will often not be about your topic (your term was only mentioned in the article)
Controlled vocabulary, descriptors, index terms or subject headings are used in computerized databases. Articles are analyzed and the content is matched to a limited number of specified terms.
+ Results will be about your topic
+ No need to think of other synonyms
- If you don’t use the correct term, you could miss some or all pertinent information
Combine keyword and subject searching for the best results
Boolean searching is a method of searching a database by arranging words in a specific fashion to retrieve the most accurate results. It uses Boolean operators within the search phrase as instructions for how to search for each word.
What are Boolean operators?
The three most common operators are AND, OR, and NOT
AND Narrows All of the search terms it connects must exist in each result.
Elizabethtown AND College
OR Expands Any of the search terms it connects can exist in the results.
Elizabethtown OR E-town OR Etown
NOT Excludes The search term following it cannot exist in the results.
Elizabethtown NOT Movie
( ) Combines Use parenthesis to group terms together, if you are using a combination of operators.
(Elizabethtown OR E-town OR Etown) AND College
“ ” Specifies Use quotation marks to indicate that terms are an exact phrase.
What else can you do with Boolean searching?
Databases each have their own set of operators for searching. Check out their help pages to discover your options!
Try one or all of these strategies to expand a search
Adding searchterms with "OR" can broaden your search.
|Additional Search Terms
|Type of Term
|Name of a City
Try one or all of these strategies to narrow a search
Limiting your search with filters narrows the search and decreases the number of results. Limiters and filters vary by database.
|Limit for current events or historical events if this is an important aspect of your research project.
Previous six months
|Limit results to material type.
|Limit results to only those languages you can read.