Library Database- Thesauri Searching
Library Database- Thesauri Searching

This notice is from the archives of The Notice Board. Information contained in this notice was accurate at the time of publication but may no longer be so.

November 1, 2006


Researchers’ search results are determined, in part, by the databases they are searching as well as by their search terms.

Since a word can mean many things, and there are numerous terms to describe a single concept, a search may produce unexpected results. For example, a search for journal articles using the term “fat” could result in articles on:

• body weight
• adipose tissue
• lipids
• canola oil
• file allocation tables

To avoid these problems, some databases provide a predetermined list of subject terms (aka thesaurus terms) from which to choose your search terms.

Using thesaurus terms rather than keywords can:

• obtain the most precise and accurate search results
• provide term definitions
(thus eliminating guess work)
• reveal relationships between terms

Databases with specialized subject thesauri may:
• automatically search subject headings (e.g. Medline, PsycINFO)
• default to keyword searching but provide access to thesauri (e.g. Sociological Abstracts, ERIC)

Databases without thesauri:
• default to keyword searches
• often provide subject/descriptor indexes of terms (e.g. Gender Studies, Econlit)

For additional information, please contact your subject liaison librarian or ask at the Information Services Desk.

Library Databases is a monthly feature by Librarian Judy Vogt. Please e-mail your story suggestions to Vogt at

U of L Communications and Public Relations Contact:
Communications and PR Officer (403) 382-7173

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