OPACapalooza! Module 2: Field Search

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Module 2 Summary

“All Fields” searches look everywhere in the record for your search terms.  Sometimes, this is good, particularly when you don’t have a clear grasp of what you’re looking for.  But keywords bring up a lot more results because they look for the words everywhere, so your term could be the subject of an entire book, or it could be just a chapter or even a small segment in it.  As long as the computer finds the term in the record, it will show the result, regardless of how much information on that subject is actually found in the book.

In any OPAC, using the author, title, or subject field searches actually narrows results down, because it tells the computer to look just in those fields for your terms.  If you are searching for information on Mustang automobiles, for instance, typing in the term as a keyword search may bring up books on Mustangs, but might also give you suggestions for books on cars (or horses!) in general.  A subject search for Mustang will likely only return one broad possibility you can use: Mustang automobile.  Other Mustang possibilities may be listed, including Mustang and Mustang (Fighter plane).  But the automobile part clearly tells you which heading is about the car!

Module 2 Objectives

 1.  Know how to search by title, author, and subject.

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1.  There are several ways to search the catalog for exactly what you want.  You can get better results by choosing to search specific fields instead of doing a keyword (all fields) search.

OPAC fields box 2.  Before going any further, let’s refresh our memories about the various fields available.  This is a good example of a record with a lot of different fields–each of the headings that are in all caps and bold print along the left side of the record is a different field, and a lot of them can be searched specifically to get very precise results.  Let’s look at the three main fields used to search: title, author, and subject.

example record for Harry Potter book

Typical OPAC bibliographic record for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J. K. Rowling.

3.  We’ll start with a title search.  If you know the exact title of the item you want, you can type it in, click on title, and click search or press the enter key.  This tells the database you’re looking for those words only in the title field.  It may find the words elsewhere in the record, too, but it won’t bring them up in the results.

 title field search setup

4.  If we do the search pictured here, we’ll only get results that have the words polar and express in the titles.  For Ancilla, this brings up two results: the book and the DVD movie.  Notice that there are icons to the left that show you which is which.

Polar Express title search results

5.  You can search for a specific word or two in the title if you want, in case you don’t know the full title.  So if you remember seeing a book with the word diabetes in the title, for instance, you could do a title search and come up with:diabetes title search results

6.  Now let’s try an author search.  Typing in a name will bring up a list of all the items that author, producer, director, etc. has done that the library owns.  Sometimes, this is pretty straightforward and gets you exactly what you want–in this case, books written by Sigmund Freud.

Author search for Sigmund Freud

Results of Freud author search

7.  Sometimes, though, names might be common enough to bring up two separate people sharing one or both of the names you enter.  Both the names “Michael” and “Moore” are relatively common, so you’ll get results like the one below if you’re not careful.

Michael Moore inaccurate results

8.  However, if you click “Yes” in Words Adjacent, you get better results, because it looks for those two words side by side, not separate.  When searching for a compound word, a name, or a phrase, remember that below the Search Fields box is the Words Adjacent command.  Without it, even an author search can give you unwanted results.

Michael Moore accurate results

9.  A lot of the times, though, you may not be looking for a specific book or author, but a topic.  Subject searches are more precise that keyword searches.  For some topics, like diabetes, the results change dramatically between keyword and subject searching.  Searching for diabetes in keywords brings up books that mention diabetes but don’t focus on it; if you want a comprehensive book about diabetes, one that covers all aspects of the condition, this book isn’t what you’re looking for.

diabetes keyword result

10.  Searching for diabetes as a subject brings up more precise results–ones that focus on diabetes, not those that just mention it in passing.

diabetes subject search results

OPACapalooza! home
Introduction to Online Catalogs
Module 1: Basic Search (keywords)
Module 2: Field Search (author, title, subject searching)
Module 3: Advanced Search (Boolean searching, date limiters, material type limiters, etc.)
Module 4: Special Features (login to renew, WorldCat, Google Books, citations)

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