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Article databases: searching by KEYWORD

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Searching the article databases BY KEYWORD

Suppose that you wanted to find articles about the Summer 2003 wildfires in British Columbia, but you didn't know which journals had information on this topic. In this situation, you will want to do a keyword search in an article database to find the full citation information (i.e., author, journal title, volume, issue number, date of publication, and pages).

It is important to remember that although different databases might look different, they all function in largely the same way. So, once you know how to do a title search in one database, you should be able to do it in all of them.

1. Define topic & build a search strategy

Once you have selected your topic, break your topic into concepts and make up a list of various terms that describe your topic. Then, combine your topics to make up your search strategy. Don't forget to use "and" to link your keywords.
Concepts: Wildfires British Columbia
Alternate keywords: forest fires
forest fire

Note: For more information, check out the TRU Library's guides: "Define a Topic" and "Plan a Search."

2. Select Database

Once you have determined your search strategy, you need to decide which article database(s) are most likely to have the information that you require. For example, if it is the title of an article that would be useful for a Psychology paper, take a look at PsycINFO. If you need help deciding, see the library's Subject/Research Guides

When you have decided on the database that you need, go to the Article Databases page, scroll down until you find the database that you want, and then click on the title to open the database.

3. Perform your first search

Type in your first strategy (e.g., wildfires and British Columbia) in the search box and click on the search button.

If the database you are using offers the limiter "Full Text Only", do not check this off unless it ALSO has the option to limit your results to the TRU Periodical Collection (in which case check off both). Otherwise you are telling the database to ONLY show you the journals that their company sells the library. It's sort of like the way big TV networks don't advertise their rival networks TV shows. You don't care where the article comes from, just that we have it.

4. Review your search results

A. Did you find relevant articles on your topic?

Sometimes a keyword search retrieves articles that contain your keywords but are not relevant to your topic. Tips for improving the search:

  • Try using different keywords
  • Try searching a different ariticle database
  • Ask someone at the library's Information Desk for help!
B. Did you retrieve too many articles?

Sometimes a keyword search retrieves hundreds or even thousands of articles –– way too many to consider. In this case, you need to reduce the number of articles by narrowing your search topic, usually by adding another keyword to your search. For example:

wildfires AND British Columbia AND environment

Be careful: The more keywords you link with "and", the more specific your search becomes, and thus the fewer the articles you will retrieve.Line

C. Did you retrieve too few articles?

Keyword searching will not find everything that is available on your topic! Try other combinations of words using synonyms or related terms to your original keyword to find more articles on your topic.

e.g., forest fires and British Columbia

instead of

wildfires and British Columbia

5. View the resulting record(s)

Click on the title of the records that you think may have information on your topic. Read the abstract, look at the subject headings, look at the name of the journal to make sure that it is the article that you want.

6. Locate the article(s)

When you have determined which articles will be useful to you, the next step is to make sure that TRU library has the journal that you want. To find out how to check this, see the TRU Library tutorial "Using "Where Can I Get This?" to locate articles."

7. Don't be afraid to ask for help!

If you have any questions or are having difficulty locating information on your topic, Ask a Question!