GEO 5991: Graduate Seminar in Geology (Kulkarni)

• Course research guide for GEO 5991: Graduate Seminar in Geology with Harshad Kulkarni

Using Keywords: Why, What, & How

Keywords:  what you type is what you get from a database:

  • Why:  When it comes to searching for relevant articles on a topic of interest, you cannot type a whole sentence into a search box but a few keywords.
  • What:  Keywords – the words that can significantly, best describe your topic of interest.  
  • Number of keywords – In order to get the better results -  in terms of relevancy and manageable number of results generated -, always try to control the number of your keywords/concepts for the topic, no more than 3-4 keywords or concepts are preferable.  
  • How to combine keywords:
    • To combine keywords in different concepts, using AND
      • evaporation AND water AND cycle AND ground 
    • To combine similar words/synonyms or variation of a word, using OR  
      • evaporation OR vapor OR transpiration 
      • desalination OR desalinization
    • To combine AND with OR
      • (aqueous OR water) AND (desalination OR desalinization)
    • Using a sybmoc called asterisk (*) as truncation character  or wildcards to retrieve variations of the search term
      • Farm* >-  will find: farm, farms, farmer, farming
      • Hydr*  >-  will find: Hydrology OR Hydrogeology OR Hydrogeochemistry OR Hydraulics

Examples of Using AND, OR, Quotation Mark

Using: AND

  • evaporation AND water 
  • evaporation AND water AND cycle AND ground 
  • evaporation AND cycle AND "ground water" 

Using "Quotation Mark" to force a phrase search: 

  • "ground water flow" 
  • "ground-water flow"  
  • "groundwater flow"

Using: OR:

  • "ground water flow" OR "ground-water flow" OR "groundwater flow"
  • "geographic information systems"  OR GIS
  • Note: Using OR - could yield more results, as long as one of them can be found from databases

Put all-in-one: Using Content-related Fields -- Subject field/SU and Title/TI fields --  with combination of using ANDOR so to get the optimal, more precise search results: 

  • Search Statement:  TI(evaporation OR vapor OR transpiration) AND su(ground) AND su(water) AND su(flow)
    • Including the following elements:
      • TI(evaporation OR vapor OR transpiration)
      • AND SU(ground)
      • AND SU(water)
      • AND SU(flow)
  • Results and Comparison:

How to Find Relevant Keywords / Terminologies for Your Topics?

One of Challenges in searching: to find right keywords that can be used towards meaningful results. 

  • From your research interest/focus (your interest is your best friend, teacher).
  • As a rule of thumb, computer databases prefer specific, concrete terms over wide-ranging, general, generic terms, like: 
    • Engineering, environment, culture, geology ... not so meaningful for search
  • General-to-specific approach:
    • Broad terms (limited to subject field)  + Specific words (your research focus)
    • Examples from searching EBSCOhost 
    • More examples:  see the next page entitled "Subject Field Search in Databases
  • Another search strategy: using the Thesaurus within Specifc databases in order to find out widely-used terms in the research field 
    • Database Water Resources Abstracts (ProQuest)  > top menu > click Thesaurus 
    • Database GeoRef (ProQuest) > Thesaurus >
      • e.g.: type Volcanology > get a long list of available narrower, broader, and related terms > Snowball effect ...
      • which terms are more widely used in research field or a particular database?
    • Database Engineering Village 2 > tab "Search" > drop dowm menu  > select Thesaurus
      • desalination > 10 matching terms: Desalination | Distillation | Osmosis | Salt removal | Seawater | Sodium chloride | Vaporization | Water treatment  | Seawater--Salt removal*  | Water treatment--Salt removal*
      • desalinization > 0 matching terms
    • Moral of the Story: Only the thesaurus in a particular database will tell which one is more widely used (expected in a particular database), if you want to get more precise results from them.