Skip to Main Content
Boxer Library

Resources for Critical Inquiry I

These are the resources that were outlined in a library instruction session for the Critical Inquiry I course.

Places to Practice Finding Terms

Subjects vs Keywords

Always remember that the database or software does not know what you are looking to find. It only searches based upon the clues that users give.

Knowing this, how does the database search terms?

Terms themselves can be related to results in many categories, and some of these categories are:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Subject
  • Publisher
  • Source

In a basic search a database might have to search all of these categories, because a user may not be sure what category to choose. This category is called keyword searching. Most databases have keyword searching as the default. For searchers who want to refine, this can be problematic because it can pull information that is not needed. This excess information can clutter and hide the information that best meets the users needs.

To select any of the above categories in some databases, click on the drop down menu next to the search box.

The most useful and versatile of these categories is the subject field, and using the subject field is called subject searching.

The next box will look at subject searching in more detail, and how you can use the techniques to become a more efficient searcher.

Subject Searching

What is subject searching?

When you go to the grocery store and want to find bread, you would naturally go to the bread section. There you can compare all of the different types of bread without having to run around the store. The same can be said of subject searching. When telling the database to search by subject, you are really telling it to pick out the information that has a match in subject to the term or concept you are searching.

To search by subject right off, click on subject in the drop down menu as is done in the box above.

There is also another technique that can greatly help you while searching, and that is looking at the subjects within the records of your results. The reason this is so useful is different researchers and authors may use different words to mean the same thing. To illustrate this point, think of how many people say pop and how many say soda. Finding the right terms is a super clue that can direct the database to where you want it to go.


What is MeSH?

In the world of the health professions, there is a special type of subject searching that can be of great help in PubMed especially. This is called MeSH.

MeSH stands for Medical Subject Headings and it is called a "controlled vocabulary" and all controlled vocabulary means is that there is one term for one meaning.


Throat = Pharynx

To find a database of MeSH terms, do the following

1. Go to PubMed.

2. Look Under More Resources and click MeSH Database.

4. Type in the terms you want to find a MeSH term for.