CSUN WordmarkOviatt Library Wordmark

Research Strategies 1: Getting Started: Search Tips

Keywords vs Subject Searching

text box library terms

Keywords

  • Your topic itself may prove to be the words that may up your search term(s). 
  • Keywords searches look for that search term(s) in the title, subject, author, summary or abstract fields.
  • Keywords will also be searched for repetition in the document.  Keywords found frequently or throughout an article may push that article higher in the search results.
  • Keywords matches do not distinguish between context and purpose.  It may match the correct word but not in the 

 

Subject Searching 

  • A subject search will locate materials by Library of Congress Subject Headings, which is a controlled vocabulary or standard list of subject terms. The Oviatt Library assigns Library of Congress Subject Headings to all items listed in the online catalog.
  • The number of results may vary widely.  Some searches will retrieve hundreds of results but if you choose a nonexistent subject term while others get nothing.  
  • If you do not know the appropriate subject heading for your topic, conduct a keyword search first and look at the subject heading(s) for relevant items.  

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are words (or, and, not) used to connect search terms to expand or narrow a search within a database to locate relevant information.

It is helpful to diagram the effects of these operators:

women or females

women or females

Or retrieves records that contain any of the search terms. It expands the search. Therefore, use "or" in between terms that have the same meaning (synonyms) or equal value to the search.

women and media

women and media

And retrieves records that contain all of the search terms. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "and" in between terms that are required to make the search specific.

image not weight

Not eliminates records that contain a search term. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "not" in front of a term to ensure that the search will not include that term. Warning: Some databases use "and not" instead of "not." Check the database help screen.

 

 

Wild Cards

Some databases allow for wild cards to be embedded within a word to replace a single character such as a question mark (?). For example:

wom?n will retrieve woman or women

 

Phrase Search

Place quotation marks (“ “) around the words that you want to be search together as a phrase. For example:

  • "Eighteenth Amendment" 
  • "Women's Christian Temperance Movement"