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Database Searching Basics: Basic (Keyword) Search

Practical guide covering fundamentals of database searching technique.

How to Search for Articles - Simple Keyword Search

Basic article search procedure - Keyword Search

At its simplest, finding an article on a topic involves the following six steps:

1. Decide on a topic of interest.

2. Locate a (topically) relevant database (the Databases by Subject menu can be very helpful in determining the topic relevance of a database).

3. Enter and search the term(s) associated with your topic in the database.

4. Scroll through and scan your search results looking for the closest articles matching your topic.

5. Locate & click the full text links embedded in the article record.

6. Download and print off the article full text, or email it to yourself.


What is Keyword Searching?

What is Keyword?

Keyword searching is a search strategy that targets the most text-dense index fields in a database.

Text-rich fields contain the majority of a record's word content.

So this approach maximizes the odds of locating relevant material by searching where descriptors are most abundant.

What Are These Text-Dense Index Fields?

This varies from database to database.


In Academic Search Complete the searchable keyword fields are...

• All authors

• All subjects

• All keyword (descriptors)

• All title information (including journal titles)

• All abstracts.

In CINAHL Complete the searchable keyword fields are...

• Title

• Abstract

• Subject headings. 


Keyword is a selective field search. It does not search every field in a database.

Should you wish to search every field in a database record (not always advisable), TX (All Text) is the field of choice.

Keyword - the Default Setting

What Do I Do to Perform a Keyword Search?

A: In most databases, just begin searching.

Usually keyword is the default search setting established for the database. So no adjustments are needed here.

Different vendors flag keyword searchability differently.

EBSCO databases signal the keyword default with the message "Select a Field" in the index drop down menu (see below):