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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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