|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 under "Description" in the record of an item. Click on the arrow to the left of "Description" and then scroll down to the section called "Subjects."
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.
For more precise searching in the catalog use these index labels.
Exact search Au= author name
Non exact search Au: author name
Exact search Ti= title
Non exact search Ti: title
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
1. Isolate keywords from your topic.
2. Narrow your search results to include both of your keywords using AND.
librarian AND “active learning” AND “information literacy”
3. Continue building onto your search, and expand your options using OR to find similar terms.
librarian AND “active learning” AND “information literacy” AND (student OR researcher)
Combining search terms with AND:
A search for librarian yields 172,745 results
A search for “active learning” yields 16,358 results
A search for "active learning" AND librarian yields 1,243 results
Combining search terms with OR:
A search for student yields 3,698,871 results
A search for researcher yields 1,425,100 results
A search for student OR researcher yields 4,690,553 results
A search for college yields 3,378,136 results
A search for college NOT “high school” yields 2,916,582 results
Use Quotation Marks to:
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.
A search for information literacy yields 147,695 results
A search for "information literacy" yields 13,038 results
Use Truncation to:
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.
A search for Librarian yields 172,775 results
A search for Librar* yields 1,887,533 results
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.