The BasicsInfo CyclesTopicsSearchingFindingEvaluating

"Searching" menu below
next pg.>>

Database Coverage
Database Exercise
Field Searching
Creating a Search Query
Creating a Search Query Exercise
Review Quiz



Field Searching

Most search engines and databases search "words anywhere" or "keywords" automatically unless you select another type of search.

Keyword searching finds matches for your terms in any field of a record or any part of a Web page, so you will typically retrieve more information with less precision. This is known as "recall" searching because it focuses on recalling as much information as possible.

Databases and search engines may allow searching in specific fields such as author, title, url (Web address), or subject, and will sometimes refer to this as "advanced" or "expert" searching. These searches will typically retrieve less information with more precision. This is called "precision" searching because it focuses on finding only precisely what you need.

For example

If you are a detective and the only clues you have for a missing persons case are the words "red," "blue," and "green," these people could be a match. This is keyword searching.



If instead you knew your person had a red tie, blue shirt, and a green beret, you have a better chance of finding the right person. This is field searching.

Tie=RED, Shirt=BLUE, Beret=GREEN


recall v. precision | keyword v. field

We recommend recall/keyword searching when you are doing either a large original research project or are looking for a rare or unique term (e.g. Eminem). Recall allows you to find anything remotely related to a topic. Doctoral students and professional researchers typically perform these searches early in their research in order to identify everything already published about their focus area. Recall/keyword searching can also be an effective strategy for identifying subject terms from a few relevant records to prepare for a subject field search later.

We recommend precision/field searching when you need to find a relatively small number of sources on a specific topic. Precision searching is most useful for smaller projects like course term papers, problem-solving activities, and making consumer choices.

<<previous pg. | next pg.>>


Why do a field search?

If you were searching for information about corruption in immigration, which of the following searches returns a more relevant record? Why? Click on the link below to see an example.


corruption and immigration