Searching for information encompasses inquiry, discovery, and serendipity. Searching is nonlinear and may take unexpected twists and turns. Expert researchers:
Please visit the ARCL Frame "Searching as Strategic Exploration" for more info
There are two basic search types: keyword searching and subject searching.
Keyword searching is the type most often used when searching the Web. Keywords appear anywhere on a search record (title, summary, abstract, author's name, subject, etc.). Use keywords to get more results.
Uses natural language
Searches all parts of the record
Yields more results including irrelevant items
Subject searching uses predetermined sets of words or phrases to describe things. Subject is what the information resource is about. Use subject headings if you want more precise searches with fewer irrelevant results.
Uses controlled vocabulary
Searches subject field only
Yields fewer results than keyword, but results are more relevant
The following search techniques allow you to search by phrase or search for different word endings. Use these techniques to create more effective searches. Databases use different symbols so check with the database "Help" page first to find out which symbols to use.
Phrase searching forces a search for a specific phrase by keeping words together in order.
Example: "climate change" or "hawaiian monk seals"
You may also use symbols (such as *) to truncate words, which works to retrieve variant word endings.
Example: comput* retrieves computer, computers, computing, computation, computational
Three simple but powerful words will allow you to create more precise search statements. The words are "AND", "OR", and "NOT." These connecting terms, search operators, are also known as Boolean operators. The Boolean operators define the relationships of the terms that you enter in a search box.
"AND" narrows your search
When you use the connecting term "AND," a database search engine looks for records that contain all of the terms connected by "AND."
The example here illustrates a set of resources on "tourism" (blue circle) and a set of resources on "Hawaii" (green circle). Using "AND" retrieves only those articles or documents that include both of the terms "tourism" and "Hawaii" (red intersection) in their records.
You get fewer results or "hits" when you use the "AND" search operator. The default search operator for most database search engines is "AND." This means that any terms typed into the search window will have an "AND" automatically placed between them, thus, saving you keystrokes.
"OR" broadens your search
When you use the connecting term "OR," the database search engine retrieves records that include any of the terms connected by "OR." You receive more results or hits. "OR" is often used to search for synonymous terms, terms with the same or similar meanings.
The example here shows a set of resources that includes those about
Fish farming only
Fish farming and aquaculture
"NOT" excludes specific terms from your search
When you use the "NOT" operator, the search engine excludes any record that contains the word(s) following "NOT." Be careful when you use "NOT." You might exclude a source that you really should see just because the source mentioned the "NOT" word.
The example here shows a set of resources that includes those about:
Any source about Toyota but which mentions Honda, too, will be excluded from your search results. Use the "NOT" operator with care.
What happens if your search retrieves...
Your search is too broad if you come across many irrelevant results and they number in the thousands. To address this add additional descriptive keywords to narrow and focus your search.
If your initial search yields very few (5 or less) or zero search results, review your search terms
Your search discovers relevant results; the number of search results is neither too large or too small, but just right.