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"Information an intellectual framework for understanding, finding, evaluating, and using information." ACRL





Discussion of Readings


concentric circles

Know Your Limits

Databases have many options that can help refine your search. Most database searches can be limited by these variables:

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Find it by Field Searching!

Searching in a database using different fields can be a powerful way to find relevant results.  A field is a specific part of a record in a database. Common fields that can be searched are:

If you already know the author of a specific article, entering their Last Name, First Initial in the author field will pull more relevant records than a keyword search. This will ensure all results are articles written by the author and not articles about that author or just with that author’s name mentioned anywhere in the record.


Boolean Logic

Click on each pair of circles in the Venn diagrams to learn more.

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WARNING!  Nesting involves using parentheses to ensure that Boolean operations are performed in the sequence you intend. This technique allows you to build a complex search using two or more operators (AND, OR, NOT). CAUTION! You may not build a good search using more than one Boolean operator without using nesting.


Just like in Algebra, the placement of your parentheses is important in performing a search in the proper sequence.  It is a good practice to always place your OR search terms together, on one line, surrounded by parentheses.  For example: 



Boolean operators are connector words, such as AND, OR, and NOT, that are used to combine or exclude words in a search string for more focused results.

Operator Examples Results

information AND ethics

Speech AND Freedom

Results contain     
ALL of the search terms.

education OR schooling

boat OR ship

theater OR theatre

Results contain ANY of the search terms, but not necessarily all of them.

windows NOT glass

Garfield NOT cat

Excludes results containing
the second search term.






Truncation allows you to search for a root form of a word and pick up any ending. Sometimes words have different spellings, or you may need different forms of the word, such as singular and plural forms and different suffixes. By truncating a word, you will broaden your search and ensure that you retrieve all items containing a form of the word

Be careful where you place your wildcard:  Don't shorten your word too much or you may come up with entirely irrelevant results. 



Politic* will retrieve



If you want all forms of the word culture, and you type cul*, you will retrieve the following that you don't want:


Differences Between Keyword and Subject Searches
Keyword Searching Subject Heading Searching
Good for obscure or contemporary topics Good for general and universal topics
Can generate many irrelevant results Lists highly relevant results for each topic
Can use any term to describe topic to find relevant information Need to know specific subject heading or vocabulary to search in subject heading list
Will search for keyword in any field Will only search in subject heading or descriptor field


So, how do I figure out which is the right tag to search for????

Use the Subject Guide/Thesaurus/Index to verify the subject tags to search for. It takes your term or phrase and suggests EXACT words or phrases used by the database to find articles on that topic. You’ll want to look up several terms that match your ideas in order to find the best terms “tagged” on your topic .


For example, if I search for the subject <Cat's Cradle> in ASC Subject Guide, it tells me to use  <String Figures> instead.















If I had just searched for Cat's Cradle, using the field limiter Subject, I wouldn't have had any results.


What if you want to search for articles about boys but there are multiple subjects and you're not yet sure of what exactly the search term might be.  You can type in <Boys*> (see Truncation) and, depending on the database you're in,  find all the subject headings with that word in it, including <Backstreet Boys (Musical Group)> and <Teenage Boys>. 



Questions to Ask Yourself After a Failed Search


Punctuation? Used or not used?
  • Did you misspell any words?
  • Are there too many ANDs? (They reduce results.)
  • Unnecessary addition of author’s name?
  • Truncation error? Wrong symbol? Wrong placement?
  • Incorrect phrasing of title?
  • Did you misremember the title?
  • Inappropriate use of specialty headings?
  • Incorrect use of subheadings?
  • Not using related terms to catch missed concepts?
  • Low-frequency terms?
  • Using general terms instead of subheadings?
  • Accidentally searching title instead of keyword?
  • Incorrectly understanding system defaults (default OR, for example)?
  • Concepts searched not in document?
  • Using synonyms or acronyms?
  • Failure to properly translate research/clinical question into a searchable strategy
  • Selecting the wrong database 
  • Misuse of the Boolean AND and OR
  • Misapplication of limiters (i.e., usually applying too many of the wrong limiters; entering check tags (limiters) as subject headings; applying inappropriately to "full text"
  • Failure to interpret search results and modify strategy appropriately

Credit: Shelley Arvin, Indiana State University

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Please find your annotated bibliography resources using the databases (scholarly article, newspaper article, popular magazine article).  In addition to pasting those onto your annotated bibliography working document, send them to me via email (either as an attachment or in the body).  I will look at them and evaluate them.  This should help you get as many points as possible on this section of your bibliography.