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Database Search Strategies: Home

Understanding the MSU Library databases and different approaches to searching them

Full Text vs. Meta Data

Our library databases include both full-text content (ebook packages, ejournal databases, and others) as well as more traditional indexes that include metadata about a resource such as the citation, subject descriptors, and/or an abstract. Search results from a full-text database may have found your search words anywhere in the content. Metadata indexes have fewer words to search and may give more targeted results for certain seaches when too much (and too irrelevant) is found in a full-text database.

Here is a list of just some of our databases under each category.

Full-Text Databases Metadata Databases (Indexes)

Includes the searchable full-text (all of the words) of the books or articles along with the citation and possibly an abstract.

Includes the citation, abstract (summary), and controlled vocabulary (subject headings and descriptors that help find other articles on the same topic).

How should you search these differently?

Full-text databases work best for narrow topics with more specific (unusual) search words and with "phrase searches" (using "quotation marks" around a phrase to search for that exact sequence of words). Sometimes relevance rankings helps give good results for broader topics as well. If not, try a metadata index.

Metadata databases or indexes works best with topics included in their controlled vocabulary. Find a citation that is close to your topic and then look at the subject words. Clicking the one that best represents your topic can help retrieve more results that get more citation that are "about" your topic. If too little is found, try a full-text database.

Subject Guide

Greg Notess
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Montana State University Library