A summary of my tips for searching databases Essay
One of the most important steps in completing a database search is to identify a set of keywords that accurate reflect the information you are attempting to find. Searching on keywords is also known as Boolean Searching and it involves specifying a word or words that you wish the search engine to use when searching through the database. For example, if you wished to find out how many stars and stripes there are on the US flag your key words could be “US”, “flag”, “United States”, “USA”, “stars”, and “stripes”.
Once you have identified keywords you can improve the effectiveness of the search by combining them and inserting Boolean operators. Boolean operators are words like “AND”, “NOT” and “OR”. Through using these operators you limit the search results to the information that you wish to find. For finding out how many stars and stripes there are on the US flag for example, you may wish to search on “flag” AND “United States” AND “number of stars and stripes”. This will instruct the search engine to limit the results to entries that contain every single one of these keywords.
To further improve the effectiveness of a database search you can use a system called nesting. This involves using Boolean operators within brackets. An example of nesting could be “stars” and “stripes” and (US or USA). This search will retrieve records that contain the words stars and stripes and the word USA or US. Sometimes you may not know the spelling of a word you are looking for, or the spelling of this word may differ from country to country and you may wish to include all results from every country.
In order to overcome this you can use Truncation. Truncation involves putting a star in a word at the point at which the remainder of the spelling may vary. For example, the word Labo* would return “labour”, “labor”, “laborious” etc. The biggest tip I can give you is to practice and experiment. Do not always accept the first set of results, trying composing different search strings to produce different lists. Over a period of time you will learn which searches are the most effective and are more likely to yield the information you are looking for.