Here are some quick tips when you got too many or too few results.
|Too many results?||Too few results?|
Still confused? Learn more details about searching techniques below.
Do note that you do not need to use all of these techniques in every search you perform. However, understanding how they work can definitely help you better manage your search.
Boolean operators allow you to include multiple words and concepts in your searches. AND, OR, NOT are the most commonly used Boolean operators. Move your cursor over the Boolean operators to see how each one works!
Move your cursor over the Boolean operators to see how each one works.
AND combines search terms so that each result contains all of the terms. E.g. "youth AND drug" finds articles that contain both youth and drug.
OR combines search terms so that each result contains at least one of the terms. It is often used to connect synonyms or similar concepts. E.g. "youth OR teenager" finds articles that contain either youth or teenager or both.
NOT excludes terms so that each result does not contain the term. E.g. "drug NOT alcohol" finds articles that contain drug but exclude alcohol.
(Adapted from The Boolean Machine, by Rockwell Schrock)
Truncations (*) and wildcards (?, #) are used to include different spellings therefore broadens your search.
Truncation and wildcard symbols may vary by database. Check the Help page in the database to learn the symbols and operators that database supports. (or, google database name + "operator" to locate the search help page directly).
Phrase search is used to search the specific expression or concepts. Usually quotation marks "" are used to search the exact phrase. Phrase search narrows your search.
In some databases, quotation marks cannot be used with truncation or wildcards. e.g.: "knowledge shar*". Do check the Help page in the database to learn the symbols and operators that database supports.
|Keyword searching||Subject Heading searching|
Keywords are natural language words or phrases that describe the search topic.
Keyword searching looks for the keywords in any field of the record (if not specified).
Subject headings are a group of "controlled vocabularies" that describe the content of each item. These controlled vocabularies are usually given by subject specialists or indexers.
Subject heading searching looks for the subject heading terms in the subject heading field (e.g. Subject, Subject Terms) of the record.
Commonly used subject headings include MeSH and Emtree, both are used to search biomedical literature.