Answered By: Kealin McCabe
Last Updated: Jul 31, 2017     Views: 110

It's not easy coming up with terms to search. Sometimes it is useful to use the terms that appear in your assignment description and other times it is best to let the catalogue and databases tell you which words to use.

You are probably thinking... WHAT? I promise, its not as strange as it sounds. Sometimes, when you search the databases using your own words, you'll notice that sometimes the number of results retrieved is very small or irrelevant. This is because databases speak a particular language, controlled vocabulary to be specific. Controlled vocabulary is very important! Think of it as a GPS to the research you need. If you tell the database what it wants to hear, the database will give you the keys to the research kingdom.

Where can you find these words? In a database or in the library catalogue. Here's how:

Example Topic: Canada's governmental policies relating to climate change

Create a Keyword search in the Classic Catalogue Tab.  

Select an item from the results list and look at the record:

Pay attention to the subject headings. This is where you find the controlled vocabulary. You want to use these words in conjunction with your keywords (Boolean Operators). Clicking on these subject headings will take you directly to all of the books the library has on Climatic changes and government policies in Canada.

The same is true in databases:

Example Topic: Canada's governmental policies relating to First Nations

Search in the catalogue

The results page will show the words the database prefers. The database is trying to help you use the words it likes. Look on the left hand side.

While we use the word First Nations, the database uses the words Indians of North America and Indigenous Peoples.




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