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LRC (ULIB1001) - Search Basics: Step 2 - Run the Search

Search Basics - Library Research in Context module 1

Step 2) Run the Search

Now that we have our search terms (keywords) from our last tab, let's use them to do a search in a database!

 

Step 2) Run the Search

  • Because searches go from broad to narrow, let's use our broadest keyword by itself first ("cookies") and see what the database has related to it before going into narrower topics. The professor is asking us to find academic journal articles though, so we'll look out for those in particular.
    • Academic articles are most commonly found in databases, which are often general or specific warehouses that collect articles from peer-reviewed, academic, and popular journals academic libraries subscribe to.
    • Databases, like searches themselves, can have information about broad topics or very specific subjects.
      • Because we’re not sure about what we want to focus on in our assignment yet and just want broad information, let’s go with a broad database.
  • One of our broadest and most popular databases is Academic Search Elite. Please click on its link here and come back to this guide when you see it open. If you are off campus you will see an "Off Campus Access" screen (click on "screen" to see a screenshot) and have to login with your HawkID and password. Then you will be taken to Academic Search Elite's homepage (screenshot).

  • Now that we’re in Academic Search Elite, let’s see what it has related to our broadest keyword (“cookies”). Type it into the top box and run the search by either pressing ENTER on your keyboard or clicking the black “Search” button to run the search (screenshot).

  • The search should now be complete and you should be on another screen. Scroll down a little, past the “Search History/Alerts” section, and you should be at the list of search results (screenshot).

  • As of today, the list has at least 5,652 results (click on "results" to see the actual search results) that the database contains that mention “cookies." This number can change, but either way it is a lot! Let's start looking through the results and seeing what is useful for our project.
    • There seem to be a lot of very technical articles about the process of actually baking cookies with various ingredients and chemicals, and number 21 (screenshot) isn't even about the right kind of cookies (it's about internet cookies on your computer). In order to find results more relevant to our project, we can use some of the tools offered by the database. Let's start with using AND in the Step 2a box below.

Step 2a) AND

Using AND in databases is one of the most powerful search tools available! Let's learn how to use it in this particular database by following the steps below.

 

Step 2a) AND

  • Let's revisit our earlier "cookies" search (link to search so you don't have to run it again).
  • To use AND in our search, all we have to do is type a word in another search box. The AND is automatically applied to it as seen by the drop-down option box to the left of the search box (screenshot).
  • Looking at our list of keywords from the end of Step 1, let's add "history" in the middle search box and "food" in the third search box (screenshot). It's important to give every keyword its own line so that when you want to move or replace words in future searches, it's as easy as possible. When everything's in place, run the search.
  • Now we have at least 52 results (link to list of results) that look much more relevant to our project!
  • However, looking at one of the results, we can see a new wrinkle in our search: the word "biscuit" (screenshot). After doing a little more research (aka Googling it), it turns out that the word "biscuit" is a common word around the world that describes what we in the United States know as "cookies." Because we told the database to only look for "cookies" in our search though, we do not get anything about "biscuits," which are the same thing and so should also be included in the search.
    • Luckily, the database has a tool that will let us search for "cookies" and "biscuits" at the same time: OR! Let's learn how to use it in Step 2b, to the right of this box.

 

To summarize, AND makes your results NARROWER and so DECREASES the number of results, because it tells the database to only bring back things that mention all the words in the search in the same document.

Step 2b) OR

OR is another powerful search tool that allows you to search for multiple words for the same concepts without having to do searches one by one! It can definitely save you a lot of time when you're searching for things. Let's learn how to use it below.

 

Step 2b) OR

  • Going from the search from the end of Step 2a (link to search), we've learned that we should add "biscuits" to our search as well. To do so, we'll need to go back to the top search boxes.
  • In the search boxes, type in "history" in the top search box and "food" in the middle one (screenshot).
  • In the bottom box type in "cookies OR biscuits" (screenshot) and run the search.
  • Now we have at least 76 even more specific results (link to search), which is great! Let's see how relevant these results are to our main question about the history of cookies.
  • Looking at results 13 and 18 (screenshot), it seems that those are focused on some very technical details about the chemistry of baking cookies, which we're not really interested in. In order to remove these results all at once, we can use another database tool: NOT. To learn more about NOT, look at Step 2c, to the right of this box.

 

To summarize, OR makes the search BROADER and so INCREASES the number of results, because it tells the database to do multiple searches at once and combine all the results. In this search, using OR told the database to search for "food AND history AND cookies" and then search for "food AND history AND biscuits" and combine the list of search results at the end.

Step 2c) NOT

NOT is another great search tool that allows you to exclude things from your search results. To learn more about using it, please look below.

 

Step 2c) NOT

  • Bringing back the results from the end of Step 2b (link to search results), we see that results 13 and 18 seem too technical to be useful for our purposes. In order to remove them from our search, as well as any other things related to them, we can use the NOT command in the search.
  • In order to use the NOT command though, we need a term to tell the database to look out for so it can know what to exclude. In this case, both 13 and 18 talk about a chemical called "acrylamide" (screenshot) so that seems like the best keyword to weed them out of our results.
  • Go to the top search boxes and type in all the other search keywords we've used up to this point ("history" in the top search box, "food" in the middle one, and "cookies OR biscuits" in the bottom one). Now, to the immediate right of the search boxes, under the "Clear" link, you will see a pair of + and - buttons (screenshot). Those add and remove search boxes. Because we want to add a search box, please click on the + button and another search box should appear under the third search box (screenshot).
  • To the left of the new bottom search box, click on the AND button and then click NOT in the resulting drop-down list (screenshot) and type in "acrylamide" into the search box and run the search (screenshot).
  • Now we should have 74 more focused results (link to search). However, there are still a few results that aren't especially relevant to our needs, such as numbers 1 and 4, which are from periodicals and not academic journals, and numbers 11 and 28, which are in Portuguese (screenshot). We can further refine our results by using the database's filters. To learn how to use the filters, please look at Step 2d below.

 

To summarize, NOT makes the results of a search NARROWER and so gives you LESS results because it tells the database to EXCLUDE whatever it is you want excluded from the search results. In this search, because we used "NOT acrylamide" the database found all the documents that mentioned "acrylamide" and removed them from the search results.

Step 2d) Filters

Filters are very useful tools in databases because they allow you to tweak your results without changing your search keywords. They also allow you to find things in the exact format you are looking for (for example, if you're looking for an academic journal/newspaper/magazine article, or things from a specific date range, or things in a specific language, or things from a specific publisher, etc.). Please look below to learn more about using them.

 

Step 2d) Filters

  • Looking at the results from the end of Step 2c (link to search results), we mentioned that numbers 1 and 4, and 11 and 28, were not useful for our search, which was for academic journal articles about the history of cookies.
  • Numbers 1 and 4 are from periodicals, which are usually popular/non-scholarly magazines that aren't academic journals. The articles might be great, but because we're looking for academic journal articles right now we should remove them from the list of search results.
  • To do so using filters, look to the left of the search results under "Refine Results" (screenshot). Scroll a bit more and find the "Source Types" box and in there click the check box to the left of "Academic Journals" (screenshot). It should automatically refresh the page of search results.
  • Now we should have 28 results, which is the most focused list we've gathered yet. To make this list even more focused though, we can also remove the Portuguese results by using another filter. Keep scrolling down the list of results until you find the "Language" option and click on it to expand it, then click on the check box next to "English" to get only English results (screenshot). The page should automatically refresh when you click on the check box.
  • And now, finally, we have 28 great results that we can zip through and use to either grab articles or further refine our search with all the new information we've learned from this search. The first article in this list, "All jumbled up: authenticity in American culinary history" (link to article's item record) looks like a good place to stop for a bit and learn more about Step 3, Refine the Search. When you're ready, click here or go to the Step 3 tab above to advance to the last step of the tutorial.

 

To summarize, FILTERS make your results more NARROW and specific and so give you LESS results because they further cut down the list of results from your keywords according to whatever criteria you're looking for. In this search, the results from searching (history AND food AND (cookies OR biscuits) AND (NOT acrylamide)) were returned by the search, and then because we clicked on the "Academic Journals" and "Languages" boxes in the Filters section it further reduced the results to 28 things that are probably very relevant to our project.