Summary

In this module, we learned about the search tools available for accessing information sources.
  • There is not just one tool for all sources; what tool you use depends on what source you want/need.
  • The 3 primary tools you will use for most of your research are: library catalogs, databases, and Web search engines.
  • Library catalogs are primarily used for identifying and locating books (print or electronic) and other materials in a particular library‚Äôs collection.
  • When selecting a database, some things to consider are subject scope, material types covered, time range, geographic orientation, and access restrictions.
  • Databases are made up of records which contain fields for information about a particular information source.
  • Library databases are part of the "Invisible" or "Deep" Web. Like most libraries, ODU purchases subscriptions to these usually-costly resources for our primary users -- including you.
  • The "Open" Web is also referred to as the "Surface Web" or "Visible Web." Search engines (such as Google or Yahoo) provide access to the Open Web, which includes Web sites and pages that are freely available to the public.
  • Search engines, metasearch engines, and subject directories are tools available for searching the open Web. There is no one search engine that indexes all Web sites.

When using search tools to find information, various techniques can make your search more efficient and effective.

  • Before you search, it is best to break down your topic into searchable components and include useful synonyms.
  • Combine your search terms using Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT.
  • AND narrows your search -- records must include all words connected with AND
  • OR broadens your search -- records can include any synonyms connected with OR
  • NOT restricts your search -- records will exclude terms
  • Truncation is useful for finding variations in the ending of a word (plurals, variant spellings, multiple suffixes). Wildcards can find variations within a word.

  • Some databases assume a phrase if two words are typed together; others insert AND. Try using quotation marks to keep a phrase together.
  • There are several good reasons to do a keyword search. To do a thorough search by keyword, however, you would need to think of all the words an author might use to express a topic.

  • Generally, all records covering a particular topic will contain the same subject heading, whether or not that term was actually used by the author in the title or abstract.

  • Many of our databases use a standardized list of subject headings, sometimes called a controlled vocabulary, or thesaurus.

  • Other techniques to try include searching by field, limiting in various ways, using "find" in full text records.


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