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Search terms and descriptors

When searching in databases we tend to use the keywords or subject terms that are known to us, or those that form part of an assignment question. These are not necessarily the terms used in the database.

Specific terms or descriptors are assigned to each item indexed in a database. These terms reflect the topic/s covered in the article.

Searching by descriptor terms will retrieve items substantially about that topic, whereas searching by keyword may retrieve both relevant and irrelevant items.

How will you know which terms or descriptors the database uses?

  • Search the thesaurus or index. This will indicate if the terms is used, or indicate alternatives
  • Check the search terms and descriptors listed within a relevant record. Re-do your search using these terms.
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