|Controlled Vocabulary||Natural Language (Keyword)|
|Description:||Databases that provide a list of subject terms in the form of thesauri, subject headings or taxonomies. Subjects are added to each record by staff using a predefined list of terms.||Natural Language databases allow searching by any words selected by the user.|
|Best practice for using:||
Structure the search strategy carefully to maximise results.
Using Boolean operators can be very important to get the most appropriate results. It is important to check the database help pages to find out the way these operators work within different databases.
Think carefully about how the search terms are related to work out when OR or NOT can be applied most effectively.
- AND (find all these words) - E.G. psychology AND learning
- OR (find any of these words) - E.G. "child psychology" OR "developmental psychology"
- NOT (do not include results with this word)
Knowing when and how to use Boolean operators effectively can greatly improve search results.
See more about using Boolean operators.
Phrase searching should be used where there are obvious terms that belong together. However consider also whether terms would always be put together and whether a phrase may restrict the search too much. Sometimes using proximity operators will work better when words may appear close to each other.
Proximity Operators find words that are a specified number of words apart.
Examples include NEAR, WITHIN, PRE, ADJ and a number is included to indicate how close words should be. Which proximity operators are available depends on the database you use. Check the database Help page to find out which operators apply.
Example: Proquest uses the NEAR operator, which is indicated by N/n (substitute n with the number of words apart). A search for nursing N/3 education will find the word nursing within 3 words of the word education.
Phrase searching involves placing double quotation marks ("__") around two or more words to create a search term.
This technique narrows the search to retrieve only those results in which the exact phrase appears.
Truncation and Wildcards finds different endings or spellings of words.
Truncation is a searching technique used in databases in which a word ending is replaced by a symbol.
The most commonly used truncation symbol is the asterisk (*). Check the database help page if you have problems.
Example: the truncated word, psychol*, will search for results containing psychology, psychological, psychologically's etc.
Wildcards are symbols used in database searches to represent a letter or letters within a word to be able to search different forms or spelling simultaneously. The types of wildcards can differ from database to database. Check the database help page for more details.
Example:Behavio?r will find behaviour (English spelling) or behavior (US spelling)
See more about developing your search strategy
Field searching helps narrow the results to only results appearing in the most useful fields.
Most of the time relevant resources will mention the key concepts in the abstract. Sometimes it will be mentioned in the title but not always.
The subject field can also be useful in databases which use a thesaurus or subject headings, such as Medline, ERIC or PsycInfo. This way it is possible to search for terms in the subject heading and not need to know the exact term.
Finding review articles on similar topics will also be useful to find more relevant authors and papers
Many databases provide limits to restrict results to 'reviews' using limiters such as publication type or document type. Check the Advanced Search screen for limiting options.
We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International License. Content from this Guide should be attributed to James Cook University Library. This does not apply to images, third party material (seek permission from the original owner) or any logos or insignia belonging to JCU or other bodies, which remain All Rights Reserved.