Keyword and Subject Searching
Video link: Keyword and subject searching
Visual: Academic Search Complete advanced search page
Narration: This short video will go over the basics of keyword and subject searching in a library database
We’ll start by looking at the advanced search page of the database Academic Search Complete.
We have our three search boxes here at the top. Underneath, below Search Options, we can limit our results to articles that are available in full text and that come from scholarly or peer-reviewed journals.
In the databases what we want to do is enter one search term per line. To illustrate the difference, we’ll try putting in the whole sentence “distance learning in higher education.”
Visual: Results page with 80 results
Narration: If we search it as an entire phrase we get just 80 results
That’s not a very good results list, and we know there must be more
If instead we enter in Distance learning as the first concept in the first line and higher education as the second concept in the second line and re-run the search,
Visual: Results list of 766 articles
Narration: we get over 700 instead of just 80 results.
We can look at the subject lines of the results list to see what other terms might be searchable as well …here we see DISTANCE higher education is actually a subject term.
Visual: Copy and paste distance higher education into search box
Narration: So we can search that instead since we know it’s a phrase that the database recognizes. If we run the search as a keyword phrase
Visual: Results list with 156
Narration: we get 156 results. But we actually have the option, because it’s a subject heading, of searching it as a subject term.
Visual: Drop-down menu from select a field .
What is the difference? When we search keywords or phrases, the database is looking for that anywhere in the article – it might just be a passing mention. If we search the subject instead, we’ll get a much more focused results list because the articles are going to be about that topic . So if we re-run that search as a subject term
Visual: Results list with 23
Narration: Instead of 156 we get 23, and that should be a much more focused list.
Visual: Back to advanced search page by clicking on New Search
Narration: We can also search broadly by using synonyms to find anything that might cover a concept, regardless of the terminology used to express it. For instance if we want to look at distance OR online or web-based or remote AND higher education…we can run that search
Visual: results list with 3,358
Narration: And we get over 3,000 results
Again, when you cast a wide net like this, you can look at the subject lines to get ideas for other terminology to search.
For instance, we can look for web-based instruction or Internet in education and any of a number of other subject terms.
Visual: Drop-down menu from Select a Field
Narration: Keep in mind that you can search other fields as well. You can search for an author if you find someone whose work you really like to find out what else they may have written. You can search the titles of articles, you can search for terms in the abstract … Journal name is also a possibility.
You can take some time to explore the different options available to you.