Follow these tips to improve the quality of hits in the library's databases:
A “keyword” is simply a concrete word or phrase that describes the main concepts in a research question or topic. If you have used an Internet search engine, you are probably familiar with keyword searching.
A keyword search:
NEVER type more than one or two words into a search box. Use Advanced Search for more search boxes to add keywords.
To expand search results, drop the ending of keywords and place an asterisk (*) next to the root of term to find all variations such as the plural and adjectival forms:
Generating Search Terms Tutorial
This video tutorial will show you how to find and generate effective keywords for internet or database searching:
Boolean operators allow you to connect search terms together to get more focused results. The most common are AND, OR and NOT:
|Operator||What does it do?||Examples|
youth AND drugs
child AND development AND play
native OR aboriginal
job OR career OR profession
depression NOT economic
crime AND London NOT Ontario
When you use library databases, you will often get too many results.
In most databases, the left-hand or right-hand column of the search results page has many filters/limiters to narrow and improve the accuracy and relevancy of results.
The categories of filters and limiters include:
|Here are two examples of library database filters:|
A field is used to “file” a library resource in the database. Fields appear on the database record and vary according to the format of the library resource.
This is an example of a record for an academic journal article. There are fields for the article title, name of the journal (source), author(s), database, and so on. These fields are used to describe and organize the library resource:
|To narrow search results by field, choose from the drop-down menu next to the search box:|
|The library has many different databases and most have this option. This is an example of the field drop-down menu in another database:|
A field search:
In library databases, subject headings are a type of standardized “tag” used to index and organize resources on the same topic, regardless of the words used in the actual text.
Subject headings are useful because they group under one umbrella term all the synonyms, singular or plural forms, and spelling variants of a given term so you do not have to search for every variation to find all relevant resources.
Also referred to as subject terms or descriptors, subject headings vary depending on the database. A list of subject headings is typically provided within the thesaurus or index, which can be used to begin a subject search.
For example, the Business Source Complete database has a link to its Thesaurus that provides the option to search or browse by keyword:
|After searching by keyword, such as accounting, a list of subject headings pertaining to that subject is retrieved:|
Another method of subject searching is by opening the database record.
Often, the subject headings are hyperlinked. Clicking on one will retrieve all resources that have been indexed under that subject heading:
A subject search:
Pearl growing uses the characteristics of a highly relevant and authoritative article, referred to as the "pearl," to search for additional related sources.
To use this technique, follow these steps:
1) Find a relevant and authoritative article on your research topic
2) Locate and open the record for that article in the library database
3) Review the subject terms that are used to describe and index the article in the database:
3) Use the subject terms to search for further resources in the database by clicking on them if they are hyperlinked or including them as keywords in a new search statement
4) If necessary, repeat the process as new sources are found
This simple and intuitive approach involves breaking your research question or information need into distinct groups, or "blocks." Follow these steps:
Get better results from Google by using these search tips and tricks:
Example: "distance education"
Example 1: community college site:.gc.ca (typing "site:.gc.ca" after the search term will limit results to government of Canada websites)
Example 2: educational technology site:.edu (typing "site:.edu" after the search term will limit results to educational institutions)
Example: allintitle: information literacy (typing "allintitle:" before the search term will limit results to those that have all those terms in the web page title, such as "National Forum on Information Literacy," "Canadian Research Libraries Information Literacy Portal," and so on)
Example: postsecondary education -university -training search results will include sites with the term "postsecondary education" and exclude sites with the words "university" or "training")