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7. Specialized Databases: How does searching in a specialized database work?

The number of search terms you may want to use is directly related to size of a database. For example, when searching Google, which indexes billions of web pages, it's useful to use more search terms in order to narrow down results to a manageable size.   The same holds true for search specificity - phrase searching versus looking for all terms, for example.

However, when searching in a specialized database, this strategy may not produce good results. Because they are smaller and more focused than Web search engines, the best strategy is to begin with only a few general search terms. Review your results and, if necessary, limit them in some logical way.


Compare Them!

Compare a search for items containing both phrases United States and female serial killers in the article database Academic Search Complete and the web search engine Bing. Notice how searching too narrowly affects results in a specialized database.  How may you revise the specialized database search to get more results?


Many databases allow you to specify in what fields you want a term to appear.  You can thus do some very specific searching, such as checking for terms only in the abstract or title. For example, you can choose to search only for titles in a library catalog, the name of an expert on a topic in an author field in an article database, or only for appliances at kmart.com.

Some bibliographic databases allow you to choose from many fields in which you can search for terms. An example from the Agricola database:


Note that some databases are on the same platform. In other words, multiple databases may be run by the same company and have same general appearance. However, search features (including fields available for searching) can still differ for each database using the platform.


Other Search Capabilities

In addition to search field options, many of the OSU Libraries?research databases allow advanced techniques like nesting alternate terms, Boolean operators, truncation/wildcards, multiple limit options, and more.

See the individual database's HELP area for information on these very valuable and helpful capabilities.  View the recommended tutorials and videos on the sidebar to the right for general searching tips.


Full Text Searching

Remember that some databases allow for full-text searching. This expands your ability to find content, but also gives you results such as an item where a search terms appear only once in dozens or more pages.   Searching fields such as title and abstracts will often give more relevant items. 

Full-text searching is often not the default option for this very reason - you may need to specify full-text searching in cases where you need to use it, such as when you have trouble finding results using other fields or are looking for something very narrow topic-wise.

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