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Fullerton College Library

A Very General Research Guide

Research @ FC Library

Keyword Searching: What is It?

By now, most of us know what to do when we see a search box. We enter terms related to what we are looking for, and we get results. But how are these results or matches determined? 

Google searches entire pages for the words you enter into the search box, which is part of the reason you will often get millions if not billions of results. As of 5:57 PM on 11/13/18, Google retrieved 9,490,000,000 pages that contain the word "love." Searching (almost) all FC Library databases, OneSearch retrieved 645,921 item records that contain the word "love." Item what?!?

Unlike Google, databases do not by default search the entire text of each article and book in the collection. Instead, databases look for the words you enter in what's called item records. Item records keep database sources organized by their titles, authors, subjects, and abstracts or summaries. Because these records are so well organized, you can have the database search for your terms in just one field (i.e., a title, author, or subject search) or all fields in the record (i.e., a keyword search), which produces much more precise results than all-text searches.

Unlike Google, databases do not by default search for similar words or variant word endings for the terms you enter into the search box. Databases look for an exact word match in the item record. When you do a keyword search, you are essentially trying to get into the minds of the writers. Imagine which words you would use to write about the topic in a title or summary.

Database Search Tips

Start with a Broad Search of (Almost) Everything

using 1 to 2  keywords:








Four Ways to Narrow Your Results

1)   term  AND  term 

ADD A TERM that will narrow your focus
 in the second search box






Search: [ happiness ] AND [ gratitude ] will produce results, such as this academic journal article:

Relationship between Gratitude and Happiness in College Students
Subjects: College students; Happiness; Gratitude; Youth--Social conditions

Note both the words happiness and gratitude occur in the title and subjects.

2)  "PHRASE"

Place QUOTATION MARKS around PHRASES to search for terms in a particular order.



Search: [ mindful meditation ] will produce results, such as this interview:

Mindful Healing: An Interview with Herbert Benson
Abstract: ... famous for connecting meditation and the healing process.
Note: mindful does not occur next to meditation.

Search: [ "mindful meditation" ] will produce results, such as this academic journal article:

Mindful Meditation for Addiction Disorders
Keywords: addiction; mindful meditation; therapeutic value
Note: mindful meditation occurs in the source description together, as a phrase.

3)  SU Subject Terms | Ti Title

Search for terms in a SPECIFIC FIELD instead of the entire record.






Search: [ happiness ] in [ SU Subject Terms ] AND [ "well being" ] will produce results, such as this print book:

The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being / William Davies
Subjects: Well-being -- Social aspects; Well-being -- Political aspects; Happiness -- Social aspects
Note: the phrase "well being" occurs in the subject field of the source description, so you are ensured the book is about well-being.

4)  Limiters

Use database LIMITERS to narrow results: by date, source type, subject, or content provider (specific databases).

Search: [ happiness ] AND [ gratitude ]
Limiters: Publication Date: 1824 

Produce results, such as this letter published in Niles' Weekly Register on March 6, 1824:
La Fayette 
Subjects: Letters; Gratitude; Happiness

Three Ways to Expand Your Results

1) *
search for a term and variant endings of that term by replacing the ending with * [Shift+8] 

happ* will search for happy, happiness, happier, etc.
thank* will search for thanks, thankful, thanksgiving, etc.






Search: [ happiness ] AND [ "well being" ]  produces results, such as:
Does a Culture of Happiness Increase Rumination over Failure?
Subjects: Happiness; Rumination (Cognitive Process); Well Being; Adulthood

Search: [ happ*] AND [ "well being" ]
Happy Temperament? Four Types of Stimulation Control Linked to Four Types of Subjective Well-Being
Subjects: Temperament; Brain stimulation; Subjective well-being (Psychology)

2)  OR

add SIMILAR or RELATED terms connected with the OR command






Search: [ happ* ] AND [ gratitude OR thank* ]    produces results, such as:
Role of Gratitude, Personality, and Psychological Well-Being in Happiness among Young Adults
Subjects: Gratitude; Personality; Well-being; Happiness; Young adults

Grateful Head: Scientists are Discovering That as We Age, Our Brains Get Better at Feeling Thankful (a Key Element of Happiness)
Subjects: Brain -- Forecasts and trends; Scientists -- Forecasts and trends

You can also click on Show More under Limit To and select EXPANDERS
Apply related words & Apply equivalent subjects





Search: [ happiness ] AND [ gratitude ]
Add Expanders: Apply related words & Apply equivalent subjects
Increases results from  1,453 to 1,601

3)  All Text

search ALL TEXT instead of keyword searching the item record






Search: [ happ* ] in [ Select a Field ] AND [ "loving kindness meditation'' ] in [ Select a Field ]
Results: 32 

Search: [ happ* ] in [ Select a Field ] AND [ "loving kindness meditation'' ] in [ TX All Text ]
Results: 220

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