Hi, I’m Penny Presta and I’m a subject
librarian. Today I’ll be covering some quick tips for
database searching. Library databases are great tools for doing research on a given
topic. Some database platforms the Library subscribes
to include Informit, Ebsco, Proquest and Ovid. Library databases include high quality sources
and are equipped with numerous features that aid the user in finding information.
You may be familiar with using search engines that retrieve results with algorithms that
combine things such as the popularity and relevance of a link.
Databases however, retrieve relevant results based on specific keywords or subject terms
used. To search databases effectively you will need to determine the best combination
of words and phrases. Here are some tips to make your database searches more effective
Tip # 1 Try using the Advanced Search. The Advanced
search is recognisable by having more than one search box. Don’t be fooled into thinking
a basic search with a single box will function in the same way Google does. The Advanced
database search is actually far more powerful at retrieving useful results.
Tip #2 Use the Boolean operators AND OR to combine
your keywords into a single search. Boolean operators are used by databases to connect
your keywords together and allow you to broaden or narrow your search.
Using AND between terms ensures all search terms are present in your results. For eg.
binge drinking AND teenagers. OR allows you to search two or more similar
terms together to find results in which any one of the terms appear. For eg teenagers
OR adolescents OR youth. Use these Boolean operators to combine your
keywords into a search strategy For eg. binge drinking AND teenagers OR adolescents OR youth.
Tip # 3 Look at the subject terms in a database to
assist you in finding the best search terms. Subject terms are listed with the Abstract
in the database record and may look something like this. Remember, finding the best terms
to use is not an exact science. Trial-and-error will often uncover the right terms, or you
can search for a subject term in a database’s thesaurus.
Tip # 4 Use quotation marks around phrases and compound
terms. This ensures databases don’t split the terms and look for them separately.
Tip #5 Use the truncation operator –Truncation
is commonly used in library databases. The truncation operator is an asterisk *, and
when applied to the root of a word, retrieves all other endings for that word. Example:
teen* (finds teen, teens, teenage, teenagers) Tip #6
Use Limiters to narrow a search that is too broad. You can limit your results by selecting
a field to search in, or by specifying peer reviewed. In addition to pre-limiting a search,
Limiters are often listed to the side of the results screen, such as these here where you
can limit by source type, publication year and so on.
Tip #7 Utilise Check for full text. The Check for
full text function determines whether full text is available via any one of the Library’s
subscribed platforms. Look for the Check for full text icon in your search results
Tip #8 Look for a Cite feature to save you time creating
a reference list. Once you find an article you want to use in your assignment you can
save, print, email or export. But don’t forget you need to be able to reference the
article. Many databases have a shortcut that allows you to select the citation style you
want, then it creates the reference you would put in the reference list in your paper.
That concludes my quick tips for database searching. If you need some expert advice
on using databases effectively, don’t hesitate to contact a librarian.