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Lesson Three. Basic Searching in Electronic Databases. Introduction to the Basic Search. Congratulations! In the previous section you learned how to access the electronic databases. It is now time to put that knowledge to work.

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Lesson Three

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Lesson three l.jpg

Lesson Three

Basic Searching in Electronic Databases


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Introduction to the Basic Search

  • Congratulations! In the previous section you learned how to access the electronic databases. It is now time to put that knowledge to work.

  • In the following sections, you will learn how to conduct a basic search using 2 of the database collections: EBSCOhost Web® and ProQuest®.


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What is a Basic Search?

  • A basic search is simply what it says: a basic, no-frills search that allows you to enter search words or phrases related to your search.

    • A basic search is also known as a simple search.

    • Most basic searches will allow the use of Boolean operators.

      • The words AND, OR, or NOT are Boolean operators. The addition of any of these three small words to a search can improve your chances of an "on-target" search.


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What is Boolean Searching?

  • As mentioned earlier, AND, OR, and NOT are known as Boolean (or logical) operators.

  • Why are they called "Boolean" operators? How can these words improve a search?

    • George Boole was a mathematician who studied theories of sets. Boolean logic refers to his system of combining sets.

    • AND, OR, or NOT connect words in a search. The Boolean operators each perform a specific function.


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Review: The AND Operator

  • And tells the database to look for all of the words in a search. All of the words must appear in the results of the search.

  • This can be helpful in limiting a search. For example, a search for "violence and music" would find articles that containing both the words "violence" and "music". One term would not appear without the other term.


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Review: The OR Operator

  • Or tells the database to look for any of the words in a search. Any or all of the words can appear in the results of a search.

  • This can be helpful in looking for articles containing a search term that has several synonyms. This can help broaden a search. For example, a search for "aged OR elderly" would find more articles than a search using only one of the terms.


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Review: The NOT Operator

  • Not tells the database to only bring up results that contain the first search term, not the second word connected by the NOT operator. NOT is an eliminator.

  • For example, a search for "candy NOT fudge" would look for articles containing the word candy. If the word fudge appeared in an article, the article would not be listed in the results.


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Using Boolean Operators

  • Now look at the searches that will follow. Decide whether the Boolean operator is broadening, narrowing, or excluding parts of the search.


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Using Boolean Operators

  • Doctors Or Physicians. Is the Boolean operator…

    • Narrowing a Search

    • Broadening a Search

    • Excluding Parts of the Search


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Using Boolean Operators

  • The answer is Broadening a Search.


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Using Boolean Operators

  • Copyright Infringement NOT Recording Industry. Is the Boolean operator…

    • Narrowing a Search

    • Broadening a Search

    • Excluding Parts of the Search


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Using Boolean Operators

  • The answer is Excluding Parts of the Search.


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Using Boolean Operators

  • Advertising AND Television. Is the Boolean operator…

    • Narrowing a Search

    • Broadening a Search

    • Excluding Parts of the Search


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Using Boolean Operators

  • The answer is Narrowing a Search.


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How to Locate a Scholarly Journal Article From an Online Database

  • NOTE: Scholarly journals were previously reviewed in the Information Literacy section of the tutorial.

  • You may wonder how to locate scholarly and peer-reviewed journals using electronic databases. After all, the publication cannot be physically held in your hands. The publication may also be formatted differently for Internet viewing.

  • Many database publishers realize this.


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How to Locate a Scholarly Journal Article From an Online Database

  • Therefore, many electronic databases contain a feature that the user can select to limit the results to scholarly (peer-reviewed) journals. This feature is often found on the Basic Search screen.

    • For example:

      • The ProQuest Database Collection has a feature that limits the results to "Scholarly journals, including peer-reviewed."

      • EBSCOhost also allows the user to limit results by "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals."


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How to Locate a Scholarly Journal Article From an Online Database

  • But... what if the database that you are using does not have a limiting feature?

  • There are several options that you have:

    • Use the criteria for scholarly journals to determine whether the publication is scholarly or a popular magazine.

    • Read the description of the database that you are searching. The database may be scholarly in nature.

    • Read the description of the publication title. Publications will indicate whether they are scholarly or popular in nature.

    • If you still have questions, ask your instructor.


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ProQuest® and the Basic Search

  • As mentioned earlier, ProQuest® consists of six different databases: ABI/Inform Research® (business topics), Career and Technical Education® (vo/tech topics, including nursing and allied health), Alt-Press Watch® (coverage of the alternative press), and Social Sciences (Criminal Justice Periodicals).

  • The default screen for ProQuest® is the Basic Search screen.


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Let's Try a Basic Search!

  • Now it is time for you to perform a Basic Search in ProQuest®.

  • To start, click here to go to the Library's web page.

  • From the Library web page, go to the ProQuest® databases.

  • (NOTE: If you do not know how to open the ProQuest® databases, please go back to the section of the tutorial that explains how to access the electronic databases).


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Let's Try a Basic Search!

  • You may need to minimize the ProQuest® screen as necessary in order to read the instructions on this screen.

    • From the Basic Search screen, type in your search terms.

  • Let's say that you have been given an assignment requiring you to write a paper about electronic commerce.

    • Type electronic commerce in the Basic Search box.

  • Also, you are probably interested in retrieving full-text, so...

    • Click the box beside Full text articles only.

    • Click the SEARCH button.


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Let's Try a Basic Search!

  • Here’s how your search should look:


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Basic Search Results

  • How many results did you retrieve? The last time we searched, we found approximately 38,000 articles on electronic commerce. (NOTE: You should have found at least that many articles).

  • That's quite a few articles!


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Basic Search Results

* Image courtesy of ProQuest®.


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Basic Search Results

  • It is unlikely that you need or want to look over that many articles. Some of the articles may be irrelevant to your search.

  • There are limiters that can be used to narrow down your search.

  • For example, if the assignment requires only scholarly articles, you could narrow down your search by clicking the scholarly journals tab.

  • This will re-run your search looking only for full-text, scholarly journal articles.


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Basic Search Results

  • Here are the results of the search that we ran looking for full-text, scholarly journal articles on electronic commerce. 1455 articles were found the last time we searched. Note that the SCHOLARLY JOURNALS tab is highlighted. *Image courtesy of ProQuest®.


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Refining a Search

  • The previous search resulted in a large number of articles.

  • You can further refine (or limit) the results with the use of the Boolean operator, AND.

  • In contrast, you could broaden your search by using the Boolean operator, OR, along with e-commerce, a synonym of electronic commerce. (Example: electronic commerce OR e-commerce).

  • As mentioned above, the use of AND will limit your research and further narrow your search.


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Refining a Search

  • You would also need to consider other search terms that you are interested in.

  • Let's say you are interested in scholarly journal articles about spam in relation to electronic commerce.

  • Refine your search by adding spam to the full-text, scholarly journal search for electronic commerce.


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Refining a Search

  • How many articles did you find? You should not have found a great number. We found two articles! Try other searches on your own using the ProQuest® databases. You will find that ProQuest® can be very useful for research.


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EBSCOhost® and the Basic Search

  • As mentioned previously, EBSCOhost® contains over 27 databases. These databases cover a wide variety of topics.

  • The default screen for these databases is the BASIC SEARCH by KEYWORDS.


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Try a Basic Search Using EBSCOhost®

  • Now it is time for you to perform a BASIC SEARCH in EBSCOhost®.

  • To start, click here to go to the Library's web page.

  • From the Library web page, go to the EBSCOhost®.

  • From the EBSCOhost® screen, click EBSCOhost Web®. This launches the database selection menu.


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Try a Basic Search Using EBSCOhost®

  • The default screen is BASIC SEARCH by KEYWORD.

    • In the SEARCH box, you will type in your search terms.

  • Let's say that you are interested in finding articles on the effects of September 11, 2001 on the business world.

    • Type September 11 into the search box and click SEARCH.


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A Sample Basic Search

  • You will notice that your search retrieves a large number of items -- over 20,000 articles in the database have the phrase "september 11" somewhere in the record.

  • Some of the articles will have full-text, some will not.

  • Click on the title of an article to bring up more complete information.


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A Sample Basic Search

  • Look at several articles until you see one that includes *SEPTEMBER 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001 as a SUBJECT TERM.

  • Click on September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001 and the database will perform a new search.

  • Notice the difference in the number of items that your search retrieves -- it should be about half as many items as the first search found.

  • This search helps to illustrate the difference between a keyword search and a subject search.


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Subject Terms Versus Keywords

To review:

  • What is a keyword search?

  • A keyword search looks for your exact term in article titles, abstracts, and subject fields. The term may or may not be the main focus of the article.


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Subject Terms Versus Keywords

  • What is a subject search?

  • A subject search looks for subject headings that match. The subject is the main focus of the article.


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Subject Terms Versus Keywords

How to use keyword and subject searches:

  • A keyword search is an excellent first search strategy. Often, you may find what you need with a keyword search.

  • However, a keyword search is a broad search. Not all of the results that you retrieve will be relevant. Some will be off-topic because your search term is a common word that is found within the article or abstract, but is not the focus of the article.

  • A subject search is a search that is focused on the topics covered in an article. This means that the articles you find will be more relevant to your search.


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Refining a Search

  • Continuing with our previous example, we still have over 10,000 references on the subject of the September 11 attacks.

  • It is unlikely that you want or need to look over that many references.

  • You can refine this search by clicking the small LIMIT YOUR RESULTS tab near the top of the search screen.


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Refining a Search

  • A number of options are given to limit the number of items that are retrieved.

  • Click on FULL TEXT and then click UPDATE RESULTS.

  • The system will re-run your search strategy, limiting the results to articles that are available in FULL TEXT.


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Refining a Search

  • You will still have a great many items, so...

    • Go back to LIMIT YOUR RESULTS.

    • Click on SCHOLARLY (PEER REVIEWED) JOURNALS.

    • Click on FULL TEXT.

    • Run the search again.


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Refining a Search

  • Note that, in refining the search, you have not changed your search strategy, but you have limited your retrieval to full-text articles from scholarly journals.

  • Congratulations! You have conducted a search in EBSCOhost®!


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For More Information About Electronic Databases...

  • There are other basic features that can be very helpful in using a database.

  • Most databases will allow you to e-mail results (usually the citation and abstracts, but in some cases the full text of the article can be e-mailed).

  • Some features are unique to a particular database.


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For More Information About Electronic Databases...

  • For example, Business Source Premier® has a Company Profiles® search that is not found in other databases.

  • If you would like more information or instruction on how to use the databases, the HELP pages for the individual databases can help you learn how to effectively search the databases.


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For More Information About Electronic Databases...

  • There are also individual database tutorials available on the Sullivan University Library web page.

  • Please spend time on your own exploring the electronic databases.

  • You will find that it is time well spent.


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