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FSEM 1111-52 - Chemistry and Art: Finding Articles

The ABCs of database searching

Save time by searching like a librarian! Try these three strategies for creating search queries:

A. Combine your keywords into a search query:

Link main ideas together with AND:
  • bacteria AND diversity
  • proteins AND folding

Using AND will give you fewer search results


Link related terms together with OR:

  • lithic OR hypolithic OR rock OR soil

Using OR will give you more search results


Exclude specific terms using NOT :

  • bacteria NOT algae

Use NOT with care -- you might end up excluding articles that just mention the unwanted term in passing


B. Use quotation marks " " to search words as a phrase:

What you type into the database How the database interprets your search
infectious diseases

database finds articles containing the words infectious and diseases anywhere in the article record, so theoretically you could end up with diseases about infectious laughter.

"infectious diseases"

database finds articles containing that exact phrase, which in this case was exactly what you wanted.

"protein folding"

database finds articles containing that exact phrase, which means you miss out on articles that talk about folding of proteins or polypeptide folds -- you probably didn't mean for this to happen.

Use phrase searching with care -- putting too many words in quotation marks can exclude relevant articles.


C. Use an asterisk * to search for multiple word endings:

In many databases, the * character is a wildcard that tells the database to search for multiple characters in place of the *

  • trans* = transport OR transporting OR transportation OR transitive OR OR translate OR transgender etc
  • communit* = community OR communities

(The technical name for this search technique is "truncation", and the trans* example illustrates how truncation can bring back a LOT of results in a multidisciplinary database -- truncation often works best in a subject-specific database)

Recommended databases

Advanced databases

SciFinder tutorials

Use these tutorials to learn how to explore research topics and to conduct structure and reaction searching in SciFinder