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PSY424/436 Research guide: Advanced search tips

Thesaurus/Subject Headings

Journal databases use a controlled vocabulary when indexing article records to enable information to be grouped by topic.

By controlling the vocabulary, the database ensures that synonyms and similar phrases are collected under one accepted term.

You can search using a database's vocabulary. When you are in a database there will usually be a hyperlink near the search boxes called thesaurus, subjects, or subject headings

Field Searching

Records in library databases are comprised of fields containing specific pieces of bibliographic information. Common fields include:

  • author
  • title
  • journal title
  • abstract
  • publisher
  • date/year of publication
  • subject/descriptor
  • Limiting your search to specific fields can yield more precise results.

 

Searching within the abstract fields (AB) can be particularly helpful. This is because abstracts, as summaries of articles, are very keyword-rich: If you get a 'hit' on a keyword in an abstract you will usually find the article is relevant. The abstract is also a good source to find additional keywords you can use in your search strategies.

Thesaurus searching in EBSCOhost

Using Facets

Most databases also allow you to limit your search or refine your results set by facets. Common facets include:

  • date
  • language
  • subject area
  • geographical area
  • material type (eg. Review articles, which will provide an overview of research on a particular topic)
  • journal title

In many cases, you can also limit a search to scholarly or peer reviewed articles. The options will depend on the database you are searching.

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