Bell (2007) writes an interesting article about tools --she says--every searcher or librarian should ever need. She discusses Boolean operators, controlled vocabulary, field searching, proximity searching, truncation, limits, and “pearl-growing.” (2007, p. 1)
The first tool she discusses is Boolean, which directs the system to relate search terms the way the searcher wants them. The Boolean operators used are AND (+), OR, and AND NOT or NOT (-).by a minus sign or hyphen (-). AND results in an intersection of two sets, OR represents a joining of two sets—it actually retrieves either one or the other or both--, and NOT leaves out records that contain the word the searcher does NOT want. Most people feel comfortable using AND, but cannot understand why OR actually retrieves fewer results. Most people rarely use NOT because they do not want to exclude possible useful results. Many databases
provide Boolean search boxes with drop down lists usually defaulted to AND.
The next tool is controlled vocabulary. Controlled vocabulary is the same as subject headings, a thesaurus, descriptors, or authority control. Its use provides all the information on a topic a database contains, lessens the use of synonyms, gives precise hits, and allows the searcher to access information that is unfamiliar. Controlled vocabulary provides the user with a subject list that refines a search, especially with unfamiliar topics. Then there is field searching. This is searching in a specific field of the database record, such as author, title, date, journal name, etc. Most databases provide default search fields with drop down menus. The designers spent a lot of effort on choosing the correct fields. Using them will ensure efficient and focused searches. Thirdly, there is proximity searching. This feature allows the user to input terms or phrases that appear in the text in order to retrieve information. Some times the database requires the terms in a specific order or an operator to indicate how close to each other they should be. A phrase search usually requires the phrase typed in enclosed in double quotation marks. The search for phrases often gets better results than terms so explore to see if the database offers this function. Truncation allows the user to extend and broaden his/her search by using a word stem and retrieving any word that begins with those letters, including the word itself. Truncation requires the use of symbols and they can vary; therefore, the user needs to look for help or example links to find the correct symbols to use. Wildcard
symbols related to truncation use a number or character in place of a letter on a one-to-one basis. As with truncation, the user needs to look for a file that lets him/her know what numbers or characters to use. Limiters are preset options that usually appear in drop-down menus and make use of field...