Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday Tech Tips: Databases, Part One

Are you ready to check out databases with me?

GET EXCITED!!!  Also, have your library card ready, 'cause you might need that.

Step One: Up at the top left of this page, you'll find a button to connect you to the Minuteman Catalog.  RIGHT-CLICK IT.

Step Two: We at the Minuteman Catalog?  In a new window or tab?  Word.  In the lower right-hand section of the page is a box labeled "Research & Information."  In that box is a link for DATABASESClick on that.

Step Three:  Select your database!  Not sure which one you want?  That's why they've written little descriptions under each one.  You may have to read (You can do it!)

Now let's talk about how to search.  Most databases (including the library catalog, BTW) will allow you to search by SUBJECT or KEYWORD.  A keyword search is going to pick up anything with the words you enter -- that can be a lot of results, many which may have nothing to do with your topic.  Subject searches are more focused, but it can be tricky figuring out how the information you want has been categorized.

Let's say your topic is teens starting their own businesses.

Keyword search: business, teens

Your results will include anything with the words business or teens.  That's a lot of articles, and most of them won't have anything to do with your topic.  Your results won't include anything with the words businesses, teen, teenager, teenagers.

How can you improve your keyword search?
  • By using Boolean operators.  They sound like alien starship pilots, but Boolean operators are words that will include or exclude search terms: 

  • By nesting.  Sounds cozy, right?  It means using parentheses to put your keywords into sets:
business and (teens or teenagers)

  • By using truncation.  This means using a punctuation mark (usually * or ?) to include different forms of your keywords:
business* and teen*
         This will open your search to include business, businesses, teen, teens, teenager, teenagers.

Mess around with keyword searching, using these tips, and see what kind of results you get.  I'll be back to talk more about subject searching.


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