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Advanced Search Techniques

Advanced database searching

At this point, you might need more refinement in your search techniques. Review the guides below for better search strategies. 

Subject headings vs. keywords

Keywords Subject Headings
  • Natural language - user generated
  • Controlled vocabulary used to describe a subject
  • Could appear only once - anywhere in abstract or title
  • Database applies subject headings to each resource, based on topic/subject of resource (adds specificity to your search)
  • No related terms are found, but homonyms might be (words spelled the same, but with different meanings)
  • Exist in a thesaurus, so helps you find related terms, weed out homonyms
  • Like using Ctrl+F in a document
  • All variations (spellings) are covered
  • Useful when: topic is very new, or looking for specific person/organization
  • Useful when: topic has established academic research on it, and you want highly relevant results


Tips for using keywords

Spelling & word variations (these work in most databases)

  • Truncation Use * at the end of the word for variations on endings
    • Educt* (retrieves educate, educator, educated, educational)
  • Question mark Use ? in the middle of a word for variable spellings
    • Colo*r (retrieves color & colour)

Group a phrase together in precise order 

  • Use quotes “ “ to take a phrase together, rather than each word separately
    • “industrial and organizational psychology”

Proximity searching - find words near each other

  • Ovid
    • ADJ = adjacency
    • Examples:
      • PMDD ADJ1 treatment = PMDD treatment or treatment PMDD
      • PMDD ADJ2 treatment = PMDD [any word] treatment or treatment [any word] PMDD
      • PMDD ADJ3 treatment = PMDD [any two words] treatment or treatment [any two words] PMDD
    • N = Near (searches terms in any order)
    • W = Within (searches terms in specified order)
    • Examples:
      • diabetes N1 health = diabetes [any word] health or health [any word] diabetes
      • diabetes W1 health = diabetes [any word] health
  • ProQuest
    • near/ or n/ (searches terms in any order)
    • pre/ or p/ (searches terms in specified order)
    • Examples:
      • diabetes near/1 health = diabetes [any word] health or health [any word] diabetes
      • diabetes pre/1 health = diabetes [any word] health