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Answered By: Jeneen LaSee-Willemssen
Last Updated: May 04, 2018     Views: 3905

A database, such as Academic Search Complete, searches titles of articles, titles of publications, and abstracts of articles to find results which contain all of your keywords.  Sometimes this results in a list of articles which mention your keywords but are not about your topic.

There are many ways of making your database searches more precise (so you get better results).

  1. Using Boolean Operators
  2. Using limiters for things like date, publication type, language, scholarliness (which is explained in this answer)
  3. Using "official" subject terms rather than natural language

Check out the video below for a demonstration!

For example, I did a search in Academic Search Complete using the keyword adult attention deficit disorder to find articles about adults with attention deficit disorder.  My results showed 1235 full-text articles.  The results are sorted by relevance. 

To narrow my results, I'll use the limiters within the database itself.  I can limit by things like date, publication type, language, country, company, or other limiters. Using the limters call Subject or Subject: Thesaurus Term will help you find articles filed under your actual topic heading.

  • In most databases from EBSCO, the limiters are in boxes on the left. 
  • In most databases by ProQuest, the limiters are on the right side of the screen. 

Using Subject or Subject: Thesaurus Term will sort through the results to find articles about my topic, not articles which merely use the words I typed into the search.  When I select Attention-deficit disorder in adults from within the Subject: Thesaurus Term limiters,  my 1235 results which use my keywords are now narrowed to 236 articles about my actual search topic.

Subject term thesaurus available in left column of search results page in Academic Search Complete.


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