Unlike the Web, databases require us to be careful about our search terms.
What are Keywords?
Keywords are terms - words and phrases – used to search electronic databases, online catalogs, and the Web for information. To more easily identify keywords, frame your topic into a statement or question and then select the most important concepts. These are the terms you will use in your search.
Ex: Are prescription drugs for depression addictive?
Suggestion #1 It’s most effective to keep your database search simple, using up to two or three keywords or phrases. Searching is a process. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t successful at first; try new keyword combinations.
Suggestion #2 We can’t always know exactly how the author has chosen to express their concept – so always think of synonyms – terms that mean the same, or almost the same, thing.
Ex: HIV vs AIDS
colleges vs universities vs higher education
Suggestion #3 If you are searching for an article in an online database, and your search produces too many results, you can easily reduce and focus your results list by: adding or changing keywords to make your topic more specific, or add Limiters such as Date Range (Published Date From) or Scholarly/Peer-reviewed journals
If you get too few results, consider reducing the number of search terms or limiters, or trying keywords that are broader in concept
Boolean Operators - link search terms with these to obtain specific results:
AND – includes all terms. Narrows search results.
Ex. drugs AND athletes. Results will include both terms, not just drugs or athletes alone
OR – includes any term. Broadens search results.
Ex.. colleges OR universities. Useful when searching synonymous terms – saves having to do separate searches.
NOT – excludes terms. Narrows search results.
Ex. cirrhosis NOT alcohol. Will produce results about cirrhosis, but not alcohol-related cirrhosis.
Phrase Searching – use quotation marks to search your terms all together as a phrase. (EBSCO databases assume phrase searching, but most do not.)
Ex. “prescription drug” or “Madeleine Leininger” or “evidence-based practice”
Truncation – searches for a root word with varying endings. Use the * or ? symbols, depending on the database.
Ex. diet* will result in: diet, diets, dieting, dietary, dietician, dieticians, etc.
What is the benefit? If you use truncation, you are able to use the root word and get results with the various endings - so one search instead of many.
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