Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stop Squinting

Close your eyes and image that you are sitting on the beach.  The brilliance of the sun shining on the water is so intense that you can’t see anything.  Squinting, you reach for your sunglasses, placing them on your face.  Ah, the tightness at the corners of your eyes relaxes as you see the water and sand come into focus while the sunglasses cut the glare.

Using the correct terms while doing a database search is sort of like putting on your sunglasses. By using the correct terms your search will “come into focus” and you’ll be able to stop squinting as you browse through the many appropriate articles you have found.
How do your find the correct search terms? For example: how would you search for articles about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? Do you use “PTSD”? Should you include the hyphens between the words? (Hint: hyphens mean something to the databases).  Is the word “Posttraumatic” or is it two words, i.e. “post traumatic”?

Finding the right words is simple when you use the database thesauruses. Many of the databases have a thesaurus which will let you know if your term is the one used in that database.  Often the link to the thesaurus is located along the top edge of the search screen such as in this screen shot: 

 Using the thesaurus in the database PsycInfo, I searched “PTSD” and found this entry:
My word choice of "PTSD" is not the term that is used in this database.  By using the thesaurus I now know that I should search using the words “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder”. 

All I had to do was stop squinting (searching using the wrong terms), put on my sunglasses (use the thesaurus), and relax.

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