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Business Source Complete: Keyword searching

Video: basic searching in Business Source Complete

Selecting keywords (search terms)

To find articles/documents on a topic, enter keywords in Business Source Complete's search boxes. The database then searches for documents which include your keywords in titles, abstracts (summaries) and other key fields. If you don't identify (and carefully organise) a strong set of keywords, you're less likely to retrieve the best results, so to help you search effectively, please follow these steps:

  1. Identify the words/keywords in your assignment/research question that are most relevant to your topic (i.e. words that distinguish the title from any other title). For an example, let's consider this question: "To what extent does microfinance facilitate the empowerment of women in developing countries". 

    Generally, it's best to ignore generic words such as "facilitate". Using our example, you might select the following keywords: microfinance, empowerment, women.
  2. Treat each word that you select from your title as a "separate" concept within the overall topic. Then, for each concept, identify any alternative words that have the same/similar meaning (or have opposite meanings e.g. inequality, equality). Different authors use different words to describe the same concept and if your keywords don't reflect this, you may miss important articles. Here's a list of keywords, organised by concept, based on our search example:

Concept 1

microfinance micro-finance microcredit micro-credit others?
Concept 2 empowerment autonomy independence human rights others?
Concept 3 women female feminist   others?

Searching for different endings / spellings of the same word

  • Plural versions: Business Source Complete automatically searches for both the singular and plural versions of a word in singular form, so if you enter corporation it will also search for corporations
  • Truncation: sometimes you can increase the number of your results by entering an asterisk at the end of the stem of a word e.g. if you just enter microfinanc*, the database searches for these:

  • US spellings: Business Source Complete searches for both the UK and US variant spellings of some, but not all words. For example, If you enter behaviour, it also searches for behavior.  However, if you search for analyse, it doesn't find analyze as well. 

    If you're uncertain as to how Business Source Complete will handle an English spelling, replace the relevant letter with a question mark. For example, analy
    ?e - the database will then retrieve both versions of the word (though note, it will also retrieve the word analyte).

Entering keywords

Business Source Complete: keywords entered into search fields.

  • Using multiple search boxes: note the screenshot above. If your topic contains multiple concepts (e.g. microfinance AND empowerment AND women), enter your set of keywords for each individual concept in a separate search box. To display an additional search box, click the (plus) button just below the search boxes. Don't change the default "AND" setting between each search box - you need this so that each of your results relates to each of the concepts.
  • Entering alternative keywords: If you've identified alternative keywords for the same concept, you must enter OR in between each one e.g. microfinance or micro-finance or microcredit or micro-credit. Otherwise, the database limits your search results to those that only feature ALL of the alternative keywords you enter.
  • Entering phrases: it's generally a good idea to enter these in "speech marks" (e.g. "human rights") so that Business Source Complete only searches for the exact phrase. Otherwise, the database searches for all the individual words in a phrase which can produce too many irrelevant search results.

Proximity Searching

  • Proximity searches enable you to limit your search to titles and abstracts in which two or more keyword appear in close proximity. This is useful where multiple variations of the same phrase exist e.g. corporate social responsibility, socially responsible corporation, corporation demonstrating social responsibility... 
  • To run a proximity search, enter the capital letter N followed by the maximum number of words you want appearing between your keywords .eg. N2, N5, N10 etc. For example, if you might want the keywords "training" and "strength" to appear in close proximity within the space of 5 or fewer words, enter: 
    corporat* N5 "social* responsib*"

  • If you have a set of multiple alternative keywords that need to appear in close proximity to another keyword/set, enter the multiple keywords within a set of brackets as follows: 
    (corporat* or business*) N5 ("social* responsib*" or "social* aware*")

  • If you need to enter further search terms on the same theme but they don't require a proximity search, you must enter an additional set of brackets around all of those that are proximity-related - as follows:
    "mental health campaign" or ((corporat* or business*) N5 ("social* responsib*" or "social* aware*"))

Limit options

Business Source Complete: some of the options for limiting a search.

  • Below the search boxes, there are various options for limiting or expanding your search. For example, you can limit by date but be cautious - some older documents might still be relevant and cited in more up-to-date literature. Other options include publication type (academic journal, conference paper, Government document, Review and others). and document type (article, book chapter, case study, health report and others). 
  • Peer-reviewed option: You can select the peer-reviewed option further down the screen to the left. This limits your results to those from peer-reviewed journals (in which submitted articles are appraised by other researchers and only permitted for publication if they satisfy various quality standards). However, be cautious: Harvard Business Review is a highly respected title but it's not peer-reviewed so you may prefer to limit your results by selecting publication type/academic journals instead.

  • Also be cautious about selecting 'also search within the full-text of articles' - this may prove useful if little has been written on your topic, it could retrieve lots of irrelevant results! 

  • After your search, you can return to the limit options by clicking the Advanced Search link just below your search boxes.