Defining the key concepts and search terms corresponding them is the essential part of information searching. However, you can use these search terms in a different way in different occasions.
It is impossible to give all-inclusive instructions to all situations, because the topic itself has a great impact on how it is best dealt while searching.
Articles provide information about a well-defined topic and generally assume that the reader already has the basic knowledge about the subject.
Extensive reviews on a very wide and general topic, such as ‘organic chemistry’, are rarely issued as articles.
Therefore, when searching for articles,
- you can use specific search terms and several AND-operations
- the use of phrases can be considered instead of AND-operations
- alternative expressions connected with OR-operators are still important
- you can limit the search result by targeting only the Title or Title / Subject fields.
Books are useful sources when you want an overall picture of a topic: basics, concepts, history and the latest development.
Many books cover an area of wide range – then the title of a book is general. The description of a book in a library database can be quite brief.
Therefore, looking for a book in a library database, it is wise to
- use only a limited number of AND-operations
- sometimes just one concept is enough
- you can try a very specific search term
- also remember the keywords of a wide range: what large theme is my topic about
- alternative terms and languages must be taken into consideration – the OR-operations are very useful.
Example: you are searching for ‘Lambert conformal conic’ which is a type of a map projection. Use the larger topic when the specific term doesn’t give any results:
The instructions above refer to a searching from reference and library databases. Both articles and books can also be searched across the whole text of the publication. Then every single word within the text is searchable. So the possibility of a search term to match the words in the text is high, especially when the term is quite common.
Therefore, it is wise to use several AND-operations and even phrases in queries. Specific search terms work fine, but general terms, like ‘management’ or ‘ effect’, might cause unrelevant hits. Thus OR-operations can sometimes be useless.