LSU Libraries User Instruction
Searching Techniques and Strategies Tutorial

Fields and Field Searching

Computer databases offer powerful search opportunities because they can search a tremendous number of records at once, and because they offer the opportunity for very specific searches that you can't do with print sources.

Part of the reason online databases can offer this kind of searching flexibility is the concept of fields. A field is a specific, standardized part of a record in which a piece of information is entered.

Let's take an example. A periodical citation (say, in a works cited list) always has certain specific pieces of information: the author of the article, the title of the article, the journal in which the article appeared, the date the journal was published, the volume number of the journal, and the page numbers of the article.

Since all periodical citations have this information, databases of periodical citations set up fields for this information, and for other pieces of information that the database may keep on the article, like the abstract (a short summary of the article) and the descriptors or subject headings.

So why should you care? Because in most online databases, you can specify in your search which field you want searched. If we know the author of an article, we can type in the name and use some convention to make the database search only the author field for his name, rather than all the parts of the citation.

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