Searching any database can be more effective by understanding and using a few basic search strategies.
Databases vary in the way you have to type in these strategies, so be sure to either check out the
database help screens or ask a reference librarian.
When an article is indexed in a database, it is given subject headings that describe what information
is covered. Subject headings are limited to a set of terms developed by the company that produces the
database. To know what terms are "subject" headings, check to see if the database provide a Thesaurus or a
List of Subjects.
►PRO: Authors use different terms when writing about the same concept (cars, automobiles, motor vehicles,
etc.). Rather than thinking of every possible synonym, find and use the subject heading for that concept to
retrieve all relevant articles, regardless of the terms authors may use.
►CON: There may not be a subject heading for your concept or it may be difficult to find one that exactly fits
Keyword and Phrase Searching
In a keyword search the database generates a list of articles that can have the term or phrase anywhere in
the record for that article ... in the title, author, abstract or even in their subject headings.
►PRO: Sometimes a concept may be a narrower aspect of a broad subject heading (text comprehension is a
specific aspect of reading). Searching "text comprehension" as a keyword phrase saves you the time of
wading through all the articles on "reading" that don't deal with text comprehension.
►CON: Keyword searching usually retrieves a lot of articles but not all of them will use the keyword in the
context you want. For example, a keyword search using "reading" might also get you articles on business
management by an author named George Reading.
The search engine of online journal indexes are based on a system of combining terms using Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to control the results of your search. To use two or more Boolean operators, you need to know how to use a technique called nesting.
memory OR recall
children NOT adolescents
The black area represents those articles that have the term children but not the term adolescents.
Nesting involves using parentheses so the search engine will perform the Boolean operations in
the sequence you intend. This technique allows you to build a complex search using two or more operators (AND, OR, NOT, NEAR, WITH).
In this search the OR operation is nested and will be performed first. Then the AND operation will be
performed. The search results are represented by the yellow i.e. articles on risk taking or risky behavior and
adolescents as well as items on risk taking or risky behavior and teenagers.
Truncation allows you to search for a root form of a word and pick up all variations of that term. Truncating broadens your search and ensure that you retrieve all items containing some form of that word.
teen* will retrieve articles with the terms
A word of warning! Truncating a word so that it is too short can retrieve too many unwanted terms.
If you want all forms of the term culture, and you type cul*, your articles will contain terms that you don't want:
The best way to truncate culture is cultur*.