Before you start searching online resources, it's good to have a grasp of some of the general techniques of online searching.
Note: Databases and other online resources are similar in what they offer and what they do, but are different in their specific appearance and functionality. It's a good idea to check a database's Help section to check and confirm how to search in that particular database.
Search Operators (called Boolean Operators) allow you to fine-tune your search by using the operators AND, OR, and NOT to combine search terms to broaden or narrow your search. You should always type these operators in capital letters.
What's the difference?
It is useful to know whether the database you are searching defaults to a keyword search or a phrase search.
Keyword Search. Primo Search and most databases (eg EBSCOhost and ProQuest databases) default to a keyword search:
|If you enter, in the search box: medical imaging||You will get results that have medical AND imaging [not necessarily occurring together]|
|If you want to get results for medical imaging as a phrase||You will need to enter, in the search box: "medical imaging"|
Phrase Search. Some databases (eg Ovid databases) default to a phrase search:
|If you enter, in the search box: medical imaging||You will get results that have medical imaging as a phrase|
|If you want to get results that have both the words medical AND imaging, but not necessarily together||You will need to enter, in the search box: medical AND imaging|
If in doubt, enclose a phrase in double quotation marks.
A proximity search forces a database to find results where one search term appears within a certain number of words of another search term.
The proximity operator varies according to the database. It is placed between the keywords/phrases in the same way as other combining operators. You can usually specify the number of words between the two terms.
The examples below are from EBSCOhost but the databases vary. If you want to use proximity searching you should check the database's Help section.
In any EBSCOhost database:
|If you enter, in the search box:||You will get:|
|patient N4 assessment||Results where the word patient occurs within 4 words of the word assessment (in any order)|
|disaster planning N3 paramedic*||Results where the phrase "disaster planning" occurs within 3 words of paramedic, paramedical, paramedicine etc|
If you wish to use different combining operators in the same search, there are two ways that you can do this:
Truncation is used to search for the same term with different word-endings. This is another way of making your search broader, with more results.
The truncation symbol is usually the asterisk (*).
|If you search for:||You will get:|
|paramedic*||paramedic, paramedicine, paramedical|
|radiolog*||radiology, radiologist, radiological|
|imag*||image, images, imaging etc [but, beware, also imagine, imagining etc]|
Database records consist of fields that contain specific pieces of bibliographic information. Common fields include: Author(s); Article title; Journal title; Date/year of publication; Subject headings; Abstract (summary).
Most databases will default to searching in all the main fields, but changing this to search only in a specific field, or fields, can give you more precise results.
For topic searching, it's a good idea to search in the Subject field, but searching in the Title field can work quite well too. If you are searching for an author, you can search only in the Author field; if you are searching for a publication, you can search only in the Publication (also known as the Source) field.
To find the various fields in which you can search, look for drop-down boxes or menus.