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CHEM 342 -Organic Chemistry - Martin Walker - 2024 Spring

Effective Searching Tips

Searching effectively centers around knowing:

  • if the tool you're using is:
    • Mainly full-text  searchable or with a very limited number of fields, or
    • Fully field searchable
  • What EXACTLY is covered by the tool you are using (content, format, and dates at a minimum)

Full-Text Searching or Very limited number of fields

  • Tools such as Google, Google Books, Google Scholar, ScienceDirect, ASC Journal Search and JSTOR fall into this category
  • You are stuck in the position of guessing what words somebody else used to describe your interest. 
  • Try lots of searches with lots of different synonyms and related terms.  
  • Be wary of the limited fields that are searchable and make sure you understand their limitations (abstract searching for example)

Field Searching

  • Fully formed databases of records (think library catalogs) that add full-text only after the indexing is done. 
  • More powerful for a good searcher.
  • Check what fields are available for searching
  • Learn to read a record for details
  • Become an expert SUBJECT searcher, don't rely on keywords only.

Generic Searching Techniques (for "bibliographic" or field-searching databases)

  1. Try a title or keyword search
  2. Some databases have a list of suggested subject words on the initial results page.  Look at them and copy the useful ones.  If there is no list, then look at a number of potentially useful records and copy down words and phrases from the “subject” or "descriptor" area of single records.  Some databases provide a thesaurus of terms which can lead to broader, related, or narrower terms you may not have thought of.
  3. Go back to the search screen and search BY SUBJECT/DESCRIPTOR using the words you learned about as a result of your first search.
  4. Be sure to connect search terms correctly using the following techniques:
  • Boolean connectors
    • AND connects different concepts and narrows a search: Fish AND chips
    • OR, with parentheses, combines synonyms/related terms and broadens a search: Fish AND (chips OR fries)
  • Use quotation marks for phrases: Fish AND (chips OR "french fries")
  • Use the asterisk as a wildcard character to retrieve variations on a common stem: educat* retrieves educate, education, educating, educated, etc.  Very useful for capturing plurals


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