Keyword Searching

One of the advantages of using electronic databases, such as those found on the Busse Library Webpages, is the option of Keyword Searching along with Subject Searching. Successful searchers use both especially when targeting specific terminology and concepts or searching for difficult-to-find information.

The various databases found on the databases page and the WWW Search engine roster may differ slightly in how to enter a query (see below.) The underlying principles are the same even when the interface is quite different.

Keyword searching is a powerful strategy because it searches for your terms in several parts of the records (see sidebar.) A subject search only looks for the predetermined subject assignment of a record in the subject field (see sidebar) of the record. Sometimes an item will have pertinent information about a topic, but not indicate that in the subject field. A keyword search will locate the words you request in other fields including the abstract and fulltext, if included.

There are several guidelines for basic simple keyword searching. These are based on set theory and use what are called Boolean or Logical Operators. The the most common Logical Operators are: and, or and not.

And is used to look for the intersecting set of records containing two or more words. For example, to search for records about the effects of weather on health, you could enter (see sidebar): weather and health. You may link any words you want to find in a record with repeated ands. Some databases assume the and in keyword searching. Some WWW search engines only support Boolean searching in their advanced search modes.

When keyword or subject searching, take special note of the language used in titles, abstracts and the full text of articles you find. Use these terms for subsequent keyword searches. This widens the pool of resources. In many disciplines, stating information in new or unique ways is highly valued.

Information Terms

The question, information sought, or search term(s).

The complete set of fields describing one item, article, book, etc in the database.

The place in an electronic or print record for one type of information, such as title, author, journal, abstract, etc.

To type in an instruction and press the Enter key.

Each record found in a search is a hit.