This is the "Using keywords" page of the "Searching for Beginners" guide.
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Searching for Beginners   Tags: beginner, catalog, searching  

This guide is for those who are visiting LU's Library page for the first time and need help with starting their searches.
Last Updated: Nov 22, 2011 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Using keywords Print Page

The Power of Keyword Searching

A keyword is a search term that you create based on key or important single word topics. Keywords can be searched singularly (by themselves) or with other keywords within a search engine. Many search engines, including database indexes, utilize systems designed to make the search encompassing like a broad net, yet at the same time complex enough to capture the correct content that you are seeking. The great thing about keyword searches is that they will generate a lot of hits, because they seek only one thing: the word you typed. The terrible thing about keyword searching is that sometimes the word you type means many things and so you may find yourself having to sift through for the real information you are seeking. This is why it is a good idea to have more than one possible keyword to use.

A keyword search can help you generate other keywords by helping you see "like" terms. Sometimes you will search a topic and it will only generate one hit, but the article or site it summons has a term that is similar to your content. You then use that term to seek out that next bit of information.

You might also consider the usefulness of a dictionary or thesaurus as an aid to generating keywords.

For example: If you were searching articles based on the term happiness, you might then look up happiness in a thesaurus and find other words, such as joy or glee. You can then use those terms in your search.

Another way to help in your search is to use Boolean Operators. While not all search engines allow these operators, many do and they can be very useful tools. Boolean operators define the relationships between words or groups of words.

Some powerful Boolean Operators are: AND, OR or NOT

AND allows you to search for two keywords at a time, finding them in one document:

Example: Stars AND Planets

OR allows you to search for one term or the other, seeking documents that have either term, but not both.

Example: Stars OR Planets

NOT allows you to search for the terms you want, but to definitely exclude a term you don't want to see at all, thus it helps narrow a search down specifically.

Example: Stars NOT Planets

Keyword searches and their Boolean Operators are useful tools in finding exactly what you want in library online catalogs, databases and the web.

(From LS-101-90 Unit 3 Lincoln University)


Using Keywords

Wildcards Words may be right-hand truncated using an asterisk ('*') in place of other characters. The '*' wildcard may also be embedded in a search string. You may use '?' to replace a single character anywhere within a word.
Examples : environment* polic*, wom?n
Boolean Operators Use "and" or "or" to specify multiple words in any field, any order. Use "and not" to exclude words.
Example : stocks and bonds
Example : (alaska or canada) and (adventure and not vacation)
Field limits A field limit causes the system to search only the specified field for the specified word(s).
Use t: for title fields, a: for author fields, s: for subject fields, and n: for all other fields.
Example: t:huckleberry finn
Example: a:shakespeare
Example: s:italian cooking
Example: n:dvd
Example: a:shakespeare and n:dvd
Grouping Keyword search results are usually grouped by relevance to bring the most likely titles to the top of the list. Each group represents a similar level of relevance and results are sorted within the group by date or title. To get an ungrouped result set, use boolean operators to form a complex query.

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