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Advanced Keyword Searching (University of Arkansas Libraries)

Advanced Keyword Searching (University of Arkansas Libraries)


This video will explain how to do advanced keyword searching Successful advanced searching techniques will enable you to execute a careful and systematic search that should result in a set of useful records. However, effective keyword searching requires some preparation. Suppose you are looking for information on the topic: the role of exercise in heart health. For this topic we can identify two main concepts: “exercise” and “heart.” Notice that only the core concepts are chosen. Words like “effect of”, “relevance of”, “influence of” or “role of” typically should not be used as concepts. Also remember that a concept can be defined by many keywords with similar meanings. For example, the concept “heart” may be called cardiac or cardiovascular, while physical activity may be used for the concept “exercise.” To further broaden your concepts, you may search for variations of your keywords or use the singular and plural form, which can be accomplished through the use of wildcards or truncation. In most databases (including the library catalog), the wildcard symbol is an asterisk (*). So a search for gene* will get references with following the characters g-e-n-e. For example, gene, genes, genetics, or genetically. Now that we have identified concepts and some synonyms, let’s use Boolean Operators, (OR, AND and AND NOT) to execute this search. By placing an OR between search terms, you will find records containing any one or both of the terms. This will broaden your search considerably. So, if you use the OR connector and the wildcard symbol, a search for your two concepts can be represented as:

heart or cardiac or cardio*

exercise* or physical activ* Now that you have created search statements for each concept, let’s combine these statements with the AND operator. This will narrow your search and give you a smaller, more focused set of results. Both concepts will be represented in every reference you retrieve. You are now ready to search for your topic. Choose the Advanced Search in the library catalog and enter the keywords for the first concept (cardiac or heart or cardio*) concept (cardiac or heart or cardio*) after the first Any Field box and those for the second concept (exercise* or physical activ*) after the second field Any Field box. Notice that the word AND is at the end of each search box. This will combine these two search statements into one search. The references you will get from this search will contain at least one of the keywords from each concept. Another way you can do this search is by nesting, where you use parentheses and the Boolean connectors to combine the two search statements. If you enter the search as
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) and (exercise* or physical activ*) it will produce the same references as the previous search. Now, let’s use the AND NOT connector to reduce the number of records that are retrieved or to exclude items from the search. Suppose you want to exclude studies done on athletes; you can represent this in the following search statement.

(cardiac or heart or cardio*) and (exercise* or physical active*) and not athlet* The records you retrieve will not contain the stem “athlet” in the record. Now, let’s look at a relevant reference that you have found. Notice that cardiovascular system and aerobic exercises are linked subject terms. You may click on one of these subjects to see all records under this heading. If you want to combine two of these subject terms you can copy and paste them into an advanced search, selecting subject and AND from the pull down menus. To recap, the following steps are recommended for successful keyword searching:
Write your research question or topic in one or two sentences, identify the main concepts, list synonyms for your concepts, use Boolean connectors, AND, OR and AND NOT to link your concepts together, and use wildcards where appropriate. Based on your results, identify a few good subjects to refine and focus your search. If you would like further assistance, please contact the Reference department or your subject librarian in person, through chat, by phone, or through e-mail.

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