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Research Skills Tutorial

This is a self-paced, non-credit course that covers research skills, critical thinking, media and internet literacy, and understanding the complexities of the modern information environment (including libraries.)

Advanced Searching By Author and Title

Searching Fields

Until now, we have been searching by topic or keywords. When a database searches for keywords, it searches the entire full text of its contents.

  • If you use a basic search box to search for a particular author, the database will return results for all items written by that author, but also all results written about that author.
  • If you use a basic search box to search for a particular journal, the database will return results for all items published in that journal, but also all results for items written about that journal. For example, you might find news articles about a merger or a change of editor for that journal.
  • If you use a basic search box to search for a specific article or book title, the database will return that title, but also all results written about that title. For example, you might find book reviews, or articles that cite the article you want in their own reference list.

The solution to this problem is to use the Advanced Search features available in all databases to search specific fields, instead of searching the entire text.

This process is covered in the video below. If you prefer, you may skip to the text discussion beneath it.

Advanced Search Features 

Screenshot 1: To access the Advanced Search features, select a database to search. Typically, you will find a link to Advanced Search located just below the generic search box (highlighted in red below).

Screenshot of the OneSearch basic search box. Underneath it is a link to the Advanced Search.

Screenshot 2: The Advanced Search screen displays numerous features for refining your search below the search box. At the top of the screen, you will see multiple search boxes, and next to each search box, you will see pull-down menus that say "Select a Field" (highlighted in red below). You can also add more search boxes and corresponding Select a Field menus, should you need them, by clicking the Plus (+) button.

Screenshot of the OneSearch Advanced Search screen. There are three search boxes, each with their own Select A Field pull-down menu. The search boxes are arranged vertically. To the right of the bottom one, there is a plus button, which you can use to add another search box with its own pull-down menu. Further below the search boxes is the Search Options section.

Screenshot 3: The Select a Field menus open to reveal options (highlighted in red below). Each option includes an abbreviation and a name to tell which field it searches. Note: Some databases will use different names for the fields displayed below, though most will be similar.

Screenshot of the OneSearch Advanced Search, focused in on the search boxes and their menus. One of the Select A Field pull-down menus is opened, showing the options: Select A Field (optional), TX All Text, AU Author, TI Title, SU Subject Terms, SO Journal Title/Source, AB Abstract, IS ISSN, and IB ISBN.

Descriptions of what each field searches follow:

  • Select A Field is the default option. It may also be called Keyword or Natural Language. This searches the full text of the information source AND any other fields you fill in.
  • TX All Text may be called Full Text or Keyword. In practice, it is the same as Select A Field, except it does not include the fields whose inputs are numbers. 
  • AU Author may be called Creator. Searches for items written by this person.
  • TI Title is the Article title, not the Journal title. Searches for items that use your inputs in its title.
  • SU Subject Terms may be called Descriptor. These are terms the database recognizes as official keywords for a particular topic.
  • SO Journal Title/Source may be called Journal. It searches for any item using your inputs as its title.
  • AB Abstract searches the brief summary/description that often precedes scholarly article content.
  • IS ISSN is the unique identifying number assigned to every magazine and journal. Be aware that if the journal changes its title (which happens frequently) it gets a new ISSN.
  • IB ISBN is the unique identifying number assigned to every book. Be aware that each edition of a book has its own ISBN.

Field Searching for Author, Title and Source

Imagine you have been assigned to read the article "The Two Faces of Power," by authors Bachrach and Baratz.

Screenshot 4: First, you might try to search the article title "The Two Faces of Power" without selecting a field. In this case, the database returns the correct article as the fourth item in a 1,586 item list of results (highlighted in red below).

Screenshot of the OneSearch search results list. In the search box is "the two faces of power," and nothing is selected in the pull-down menu next to it. We are on items 1-50 of 1,586 search results. The fourth search result is Two Faces of Power by Bachrach, Peter and Barat, Morton S. in the American Political Science Review.

Screenshot 5: If we search for the title "The Two Faces of Power" using the Title field, we get 4 results instead of 1, 586 (highlighted below in red). The reason we get 4 results instead of 1 is because other authors responded to the first article and they put the title of the original article into their own title. This is not an uncommon practice. 

Screenshot of the OneSearch search results list. In the search box is "the two faces of power" and the pull-down menu is set to TI Title. There are 4 search results. #1 is a response article, "Peter Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz. 1962. 'Two Faces of Power.' 'American Political Science Review' 56 (December): 947-52. Item 3 is "Two Faces of Power," the original article.

Screenshot 6: To limit the search results to the exact article you want, written by those exact authors, use both the Title field AND the Author field.

The combination of article title "The Two Faces of Power" in the Title field AND the article authors Bachrach AND Baratz in the Author field is unique. It brings up only one article, in two different languages (highlighted in red below).

Screenshot of the OneSearch search results list. In the first search box, it says bachrach AND baratz and the pull-down menu is set to AU Author. In the second search box, it says "the two faces of power," and the pulldown menu is set to TI Title. The first search result is "Two Faces of Power" by Bachrach and Baratz and the second search result is the same article in Portuguese. Those are the only search results.

Note: Between the search boxes there are Boolean operator menus. These menus default to the AND operator, but you could use the menus to choose the OR or NOT operators. You could also use any of the six Boolean operators, including parentheses, quotation marks and truncation*, in the search boxes, as you would in a basic search.

Accessibility Note

Please note: If you need to request accommodations with content linked to on this guide, on the basis of a disability, please contact Disability Services by emailing them at Disability.Services@esc.edu.  Requests for accommodations should be submitted as early as possible to allow for sufficient planning. If you have questions, please visit the disability services website http://www.esc.edu/disabilityservices.