|Tarleton State University Libraries
|USING PHRASE SEARCHES
Searches help users locate items using words in an
exact order (a phrase). They can also enhance the accuracy of
searches and reduce the number of unusable search results. On
the other hand, phrase searches will sometimes decrease search
efficiency if the phrase used is not indexed in the tool or
present in the full text articles.
HOW PHRASE SEARCHES INCREASE PRECISION
phrase searches helps restrict a search to relevant items. For example,
when looking for information about employee unions (as in trade unions,
not marriage) a search for the words employee unions in the
database Project Muse yields almost 200 returns--many of which have
nothing to do with the topic of trade or employee unions. On the other
hand, a search for the phrase "employee unions" yields
8 results--all of which discuss trade/employee unions. Modifying the
search terms further as discussed in other parts of this unit would
probably further enhance the precision of the search.
However, phrase searching can also hinder success if terms are combined
as phrases that are not indexed in the search tool or are not used
in the full text articles. For example, the phrase "how to negotiate
with angry employees" may not return results in a business database,
while a different type of search (i.e. negotiat* and angry and employee*)
would--the techniques used to form the example search are discussed
in other parts of this unit.
TO CREATE PHRASE SEARCHES
Usually phrase searches are indicated by enclosing search terms in
quotation marks (i.e. "human resource management"). However,
some search tools use other symbols to indicate phrases. For example,
Tarleton libraries' catalog single quotation marks (apostrophes) are
used to indicate phrase searches (i.e. 'human resource management').
Also, some online search tools automatically assume phrase searches.
For example, the database JSTOR automatically phrase searches more
than one term on the same line in a search box.
Therefore, consulting the online search tips in the databases to see
which symbols to use and to find out other specifics will increase
success rates, save time, and reduce frustration.