Information Competence

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Overview of Databases

Overview of the Web

Search Strategies

Evaluating Results

Capturing Information

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Field vs. Free-Text

Field Searching

In some databases when you conduct a search, the search term is only looked for in specific fields. For example, keyword searches in many online catalogs will locate items with the search term in the title, subject or contents fields.

Free-Text Searching

In other databases, the search term is looked for anywhere in a document or record. This is called free-text searching.

Free-text searching often results in false drops (irrelevant items) because any item which contains the search term, no matter where it is located (in the author field, title field, abstract, notes, or anywhere in the full text) will be retrieved!

Many search engines on the Web, like Alta Vista, use free-text searching. Hundreds, even thousands of documents are retrieved but many are irrelevant or only peripherally related to the search topic.

Choice of Selecting Field or Free-Text Searching

Some databases allow the user to choose between field or free-text searching. Look carefully at the database search sceen to see if this option is provided. Choices may be provided by drop-down menus or radio buttons.

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