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Fall 2022 Library Service Updates

Database Search Tips: Fields

What to look for

Records in library databases are comprised of fields containing specific pieces of bibliographic information. Common fields include:

  • author
  • title
  • journal title
  • abstract
  • publisher
  • date/year of publication
  • subject/descriptor

Using database fields to improve your search results

Limiting your search to specific database fields can yield more precise results. For example, if you are looking for books by Adam Smith instead of about him, it is more efficient to limit your search to the author field.

  • To find various fields within a database, look for drop down boxes or menus to select the field you want to search.
  • Then combine words and fields together with boolean or proximity operators, depending on how precise you want to be.
  • If you do not choose a specific field, the database usually reverts to a keyword search, where your words will be searched throughout the record.
  • If your keyword search retrieves too many records, try narrowing your search to retrieve a more manageable result.
  • Information overload - too many results - can be a worse situation than finding only 10 very relevant results.

Finding Fields

When you search a database you may choose to search specific fields to improve the accuracy of your results. Look for an advanced search option in the database to see a wider selection of fields and also to have the ability to combine fields in your search.

Here's an example of the fields available on one of the library databases advanced search:
Screenshot showing list of available fields in a database search by clicking the Select A Fields option on Advanced Search screen.

And here is where you can find the fields listed in your search results

Screenshot showing fields listed on left side of search results screen.

This guide was adapted from the MIT Libraries Database Search Tips guide with permission under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC license

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