Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Resource Wednesday: Academic Search Complete

Welcome to today's installment of Resource Wednesday, when we're going to look at Academic Search Complete, a great start for general database searches.

Why is it a great place to start?
Academic Search Complete includes more than 8,000 full-text periodicals (7,500 of which are peer-reviewed, great for your academic projects). It also indexes and provides abstracts for more than 13,200 other publications. And it does that while covering many different academic areas - everything from anthropology to humanities to science to zoology.

While you might want to use a more tightly focused database for higher level classes or focused research, Academic Search Complete is a great place to start for more general searches, or while you're trying to get a feeling for a particular topic or area of interest.

Getting there:
You can get to Academic Search Complete in a couple of ways. One of the easiest is to go to the Mantor Library Homepage, click on the Databases tab (shown below) and select Academic Search Complete from the dropbox that says "Select a Commonly Used Database". You can also browse our A to Z listing (the link on the left), or the CourseGuide for your class may include a link. 

Using the database:
Your inital screen will look like this at the top. (If you can't see an image clearly, click on it to load just the image at a larger size.) There are lots of options, so let's look at them group by group.

In the top left, you can enter search terms. Just to the right, you can choose to limit a search term to a particular field - so you could enter the author's last name, and only search on the author field, or a word you know is in the title of the article.

You can also choose how you search. Boolean/phrase means you can either use a combination of AND, OR, or NOT terms, or you can enter a phrase. SmartText searching means you can copy and paste text (up to about 5000 characters). You can learn more about all of these options in the help files.

A final set of options lets you determine what kind of results you get back. You can limit to full text articles, scholarly journals, a particular publication, a particular kind of document (like an article, review, or more.) You can also limit to a particular language, or when the article was published.

Refining your results
Once you run your search, you'll end up with a list of results down the right side, and a left sidebar that has all sorts of useful tools.

The top of the sidebar (shown here on the left) tells you how many results you have. You can then refine your results by clicking the boxes to limit to full text, or scholarly journals, or articles with references.

I really like the sliding bar that lets you limit the date range (and see very clearly how old the oldest articles in your search are. And of course, you can limit to a particular type of source.
Below that, you have another neat feature. Often, when we're new to a subject, we're not sure what the best terms are. The Thesaurus Term and Subject areas of the sidebar help you figure that out. (If they're not visible, click the little arrow to the left of the header.)

Once you get sort of close to the right topic, you can use these headings to narrow things down, or to take your search in a more focused direction.

 Either way, once you find an article you're interested in, click on the title of the article to go to the page with details about it.  

 Working with an article:
 Now that you've found your article, you can do all sorts of things with it.

The left sidebar will have a link to the full text version if there is one. You can click on it to read the article. (If there isn't a full text version, you can find out more in steps 5 and 6 of our Finding Articles CourseGuide - and I'll talk more about that next week, too.) 

You can also click on any of the subject headings to search on that heading. And on the right sidebar, there are all sorts of tools to help you save the article. You can send it to your email, save it, export it to RefWorks, and much more. (You can find more about exporting in our RefWorks CourseGuide - follow the directions for EBSCO for the Academic Search Complete database.)

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