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Search Tips: In the Catalog

Keyword vs. Subject Searching

Keywords Subjects
Natural language words that describe your topic Pre-defined "controlled vocabulary" that describe what an item is about 
More flexible search - looks for anywhere the words appear in the record Less flexible search - only the subject fields will be searched
Broader search, but may yield irrelevant results Targeted search; results are usually more relevant to the topic, but may miss some variations

Keyword searching is how we normally start a search. Pull out important words or phrases from your topic. 

Subject Terms and/or Headings are pre-defined terms that are used to describe the content of an item. These terms are a controlled vocabulary and function similarly to hashtags on social media.

We are indebted to the MIT What are subject headings and keywords? box for some concepts displayed here.

In the Catalog, subject headings are displayed in the detailed record of an item. 

In the Databases, subject headings may be listed as Descriptors, Subjects and/or Subject Headings and are typically located in the Abstract and/or Details of an article.

 

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For more information, visit the Finding Resources guide.

Precise Searching

For more precise searching in the catalog use these index labels.

Author Search
Exact search Au= author name
Non exact search Au: author name

Title Search
Exact search Ti= title
Non exact search Ti: title

Personal Name
Exact search Pn= name
Non exact search Pn: name

Library of Congress Subject Descriptor
Exact search De= subject
Non exact search De: subject

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
Exact search Hm= MeSH
Non exact search Hm: MeSH

Example:

More options can be found here.

Create a Search Using Commands

1. Isolate keywords from your topic.

2. Narrow your search results to include both of your keywords using AND.

"Nellie Bly" AND "investigative journalism" AND women

3. Expand your search using OR to find like terms.

"Nellie Bly" AND "investigative journalism" AND (women OR feminism)

Combining search terms with AND:

  • Narrows your search, reducing the number of results.
  • Makes the search focus more specifically on your topic.

For Example

A search for "Nellie Bly" yields 471 results results

A search for "investigative journalism" yields 6,922 results

A search for "investigative journalism" AND "Nellie Bly" yields 29 results

Combining search terms with OR:

  • Expands your search and increases number of results.

For Example

A search for "women's rights" yields 46,525 results

A search for feminism yields 97,260 results

A search for "women's rights" OR feminism yields 135,810 results

Combining search terms with NOT:

  • Narrows your search, decreasing your search results.
  • Tells the search to exclude certain terms.

For Example

A search for News yields 80,049,505 results

A search for News NOT Television yields 77,025,916 results

Use Quotation Marks to:

  • Narrow your search.
  • Combine search terms that are more than single worlds.

This shows the search engine that you want the terms to be found together. The search will look for exactly what you place in the quotation marks, so be sure there are no mistakes.

For Example

A search for Nellie Bly yields 518 results

A search for "Nellie Bly" yields 471 results

 

Use Truncation to:

  • Expand your search.
  • Give your search tool flexibility to find alternate endings for your search term.

Search engines match your terms to results; they will not automatically find an alternate version of it. Truncation tells the search to match the root of your term and gives it freedom to find whatever endings it can.

For Example

A search for Journalist yields 5,098,022 results

A search for Journalis* yields 5,778,205 results

These commands are called Boolean Operators.

Boolean

1. denoting a system of algebraic notation used to represent logical propositions, especially in computing and electronics.

What does that mean for you?

If you are having a hard time finding what you need, use the Boolean Operators outlined here to more efficiently search databases.

No matter where you are searching - the catalog, Google Scholar, a database you will want to use Boolearn Operators to refine your search to your specifications.

We are indebted to the Butler University Library's And/Or/Not box for some of the content displayed here.

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