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Business Source Complete: Tips on using BSC and other databases

Effective use of Article Databases with some examples

There are 8 central concepts that are important to grasp, in order build an effective search strategy in any article oriented database:


  • #1:  If you have a MULTI WORD PHRASE you need to treat it differently - treat it like a mathematical expression, and put it inside a set of PARENTHESES:    For example:  Military Industrial Complex ===> (Military Industrial Complex)


  • #2:  Meaningful use of synonyms - do not search for just one word, to cover your core concept.  Try to include synonyms & unique phrases that are closely allied with your prinicpal area of focus. Separate each of the synonyms with the OR command:    For example:   Child abuse ===> (Child abuse) OR (Abused children) OR (Sexual abuse) OR (Sexually abused) OR (Physical abuse) OR (Physically abused) OR (Emotional abuse) OR (Emotionally abused)


  • #3:  Using WILDCARDS for variety of words that have similar starting point of spelling - do not search for just one word, if there are an entire family of words that all have the same base word.  The ASTERISK "*" is the wildcard to use most article oriented databases.    For example:   Econom* will automatically pull in:  Econometric OR Econometrically OR Economic OR Economically OR Economize OR Economizing


  • #4:  If you are trying to focus on a specific Geography, you really need to search for both the Name of the country / city / region, as well as searching for the People of that county / city / region, and sometimes adding in the name of their language.  For example, if you want to only focus on your topic in Holland, then you should formulate that component as ==> ( Holland OR Netherlands OR  Dutch )


  • #5:  If you have a HYPHENATED WORD you need to search for it both WITH and WITHOUT the hyphen::    For example:  Multi-National Corporations ===> (mutli-national corporations) OR (mutlinational corporations)


  • #6:  Understanding the searching options of that particular database -- if your database has the capability of specifying a unique field to search, try looking for your topic under the SUBJECT umbrella.   For example:  an ordinary "default" search as contrasted against  a subject only search


  • #7:  Understanding the difference between a FULL TEXT search and an ordinary or DEFAULT search -- if your database has the capability of conducting a Full Text search, you will always retrieve more results, but there will also be more fuzziness within the results, since you will be pulling in noise from every instance where your choice of keywords have been used in a totally different context.  If you are searching for APPLE (the electronics equipment maker), you might find hundreds of articles about New York City, since its nickname is "the big apple".


For some research topics, the difference in the number of articles retrieved between a DEFAULT search and a ALL TEXT search these two simple options could be enormous.  Here is a case where a full text search yields SEVEN times the number of results, as an ordinary "default" search:


  • #8:  Most of our databases offer a variety of viewing options, as well as way to narrow down the search - Our two largest families of databases (Ebsco and Proquest) offer a variety of options on the far left column to modify the results into various subsets, as well options for which publication years you want to focus on.  Further down the left column are ways to analyze the results and show you the frequency of which elements occur most often within the current batch of results.  Such as Subject headings, Sources of publications / journal names, and Companies that are the focus of the underlying documents.

Gary Klein (Reference Librarian)

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Gary Klein
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Mark O. Hatfield Library
Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem, OR 97301
Willamette University

Willamette University Libraries

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street.
Salem Oregon 97301
Pacific Northwest College of Art Library
511 NW Broadway.
Portland Oregon 97209