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Self-study material for information searches: Information retrieval

Search fields

In most databases, the search can be aimed at different fields.

Therefore, it is much easier to eliminate irrelevant references in those databases than when searching the Internet.

Keyword search

Keywords are searched from every field in the database. In addition to the words, phrases or proper nouns of natural language, you can also use subject terms as search terms. The result of a keyword search may contain numerous references, and it takes a lot of time to browse through them. Occasionally, the results may include some interesting references you could not have found otherwise.

Rather often, though, the results will contain a large amount of irrelevant references, unless you design the search phrase well enough. The best results can be achieved when Boolean connectors are used to link words of natural language with subject terms.

Subject search

... are searched from the words that describe the content of the publication.

Subject terms are selected for example from YSA (the general Finnish thesaurus), thesauruses from specialised fields of study, or from individual databases’ thesauruses.

The best results in information retrieval can be achieved by using the same subject terms that have been used in describing the contents of the publication.

Limiting search

The search results often contain documents that are relevant to the subject, but that for some reason are irrelevant. The documents may be too old to be accepted for a source of a research paper, or they are written in a language you do not understand. Furthermore, the type of the document (a thesis, a patent) or the level of information (a text book, a study) may be unsuitable.

Use limiters to define that the search results are, for example, published at a specific time or written in a specific language. Most databases have the possibility of at least limiting the search by year of publication or by language.

Other search fields ...

When using the

  • title field, the search engine retrieves the search word from the titles
  • author field, the search engine retrieves the names of the authors 
  • abstract field, the search engine looks for the word from the abstracts.

These basic search fields occur in most databases, but there are variations in individual databases.