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Research @ Reynolds Libraries

3 a. Search the library catalog

Anatomy of a Catalog Record for a Book

A database is an organized collection of online records in a standardized format that can be stored and accessed in a variety of ways. The library catalog (QuickSearch) is one example of a database. 

Each record in the library catalog (QuickSearch) is composed of important elements of information that describe a specific item. For example, the elements of information for a specific book title would be contained in a single catalog record.

Each record is composed of a set of fields which contain the individual elements of information. For example, each record in a library catalog includes fields such as: title, author, and subject headings.
 


 


 

Example of a Record from QuickSearch:

Keyword Search

A keyword search retrieves words or phrases from the important fields of the database records. In most databases a keyword search finds words in fields that have descriptive content, such as author, article title, source title (book, journal, magazine, or newspaper, subject/descriptor terms, and abstract. In some databases, additional fields may be included in the keyword search. And in other databases, a keyword search will search everything in every record.  Some keyword search engines allow you to specify which field(s) are to be searched.

A keyword search usually retrieves more items than a subject search, but they may not all be relevant. The computer is looking for the exact word you typed, not for the meaning or context of the word.

For example, a search on AIDS will retrieve items on...

  • aids for the hearing impaired
  • school aids
  • AIDS (the disease)

A keyword search is the best method to use when:

  • You are beginning your research
  • You are searching for a new trend or concept
  • You are not sure of the correct subject heading
  • The database does not have subject headings
  • You are looking for specific factual information

 Some search tips:

  • Use only significant words, not common words, such as the, of, an, and that.
  • Avoid using phrases such as "people with diabetes", or whole sentences, such as "How do people buy cigarettes if they are under 18?"

Subject Heading Search

A subject search involves searching the subject headings used in a database. Most databases include subject headings that are assigned to each record.

A list of subject headings, called a database thesaurus, ensures that all items about the same topic have uniform headings. Users can then retrieve all of the items on the same topic using one word or term, even when there may be several other ways to state the concept. By using the subject heading, you will retrieve every relevant item for your topic. Searching with a subject heading retrieves items ABOUT that particular topic, and it is a more precise search than a keyword search.

For example, you may want to research the topic death penalty.

Possible ways (synonyms) to state this topic include: 

  • Death Penalty
  • Electrocution
  • Capital Punishment
  • Hanging
  • Cruel and Unusual Punishment
  • Death Row
  • Lethal Injection

In the library catalog (QuickSearch) and Academic Search Complete database, the subject heading for death penalty is capital punishment, but the same term may not be used in other databases.

The thesaurus for the library catalog (QuickSearch) is called Library of Congress Subject Headings. If you would like to consult this resource, or if you are unsure whether a particular database has a thesaurus, ask a reference librarian.

Keyword vs. Subject Heading Search

Keyword Search:

  • May search multiple fields including subject, title, and abstract
  • May retrieve irrelevant items
  • Low precision, more results
  • Allows grouping terms to expand or narrow search

 

Subject Heading Search:

  • Searches for subject or descriptor field only
  • Controlled vocabulary from thesaurus
  • High degree of relevancy
  • High precision, fewer results
  • Requires knowing, finding subject headings

Search Tips

Use QuickSearch to search for items at all three Reynolds campus libraries including:

  • books (audio, online, & print)
  • videos (DVDs & online) 
  • articles (online)

Specific search tips for using QuickSearch:

  • Try a basic keyword search when:
    • you have a narrow or complex topic.  In many cases this means entering two or more search terms to describe your topic.
    • you have only partial information about the author or title.
    • there is no appropriate subject heading or your topic or you are unsure of the correct subject heading
  • Try an author, subject, or title search when you know the exact author, subject, or title
  • If you retrieve too many results for your topic, try a subject search.
  • If your topic is too specific, you may retrieve few or no results.  Try to think of a broader subject area or broader search terms to use for your topic (e.g., Specific topic: the impact of divorce on the academic performance of children.Try a broader search: children and divorce).

For additional information on searching QuickSearch:

General search strategy tips:

  • Use the Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT in ALL CAPS to refine your search.  For example:
    • zombies vampires – when using only the AND operator, just use a space between your words. The AND operator is assumed and you will retrieve records that include BOTH terms.
    • zombies OR vampires – you will retrieve records that contain AT LEAST ONE of these words.
    • (zombies OR vampires) AND werewolves - use parentheses to keep combination searches in order.  If you combine operators AND & OR, you will need to also type the operator AND.   You will retrieve records that include at least one of the terms - zombies or vampires, as well as the term - werewolves.
    • zombies NOT vampires – you will retrieve records that include the word, zombies and not the word, vampires.
  • “  ”  use quotation marks to find an exact phrase – e.g., “world war z”
  • ?  enter a question mark to perform a single character wildcard search. For example, type wom?n to search for records that contain at least one of these words - womanwomen.
  • *  enter an asterisk at the end of a root word to pick up all forms of the root word including the plural or singular of a word. For example, type the root word teen* to search for records that contain at least one of these words – teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers.

For additional information on general search strategies, review the Online Search Strategies page from the Step 4b. section of this guide.

How to Access QuickSearch

  1. To access and begin a search in QuickSearch, go to the Reynolds Library home page at: http://library.reynolds.edu.
  2. When the Reynolds Library home page appears, type your keywords in the QuickSearch box located near the top of the screen. Click on the Go button or press the <Enter> key to execute the search.
  3. The QuickSearch results will appear in a new tab/window.
  4. To perform another search while still in QuickSearch, enter your search terms in the search window near the top of the QuickSearch screen.

**You can also access QuickSearch from most of our course and subject research guides located at http://libguides.reynolds.edu.

QuickSearch - Book Basics

Quick Search - Search Everything

 

 

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