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CHE/MAE/MSE 593: Applied Project

How to do a literature review for SEMTE applied projects.

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Each database is different in how their search engine functions, what and how material is covered, and how results are displayed.  Although the search interface varies among the databases, there are a limited number of variants and each has it's own pecularities.   This section will give you a quick run down of the different types of interfaces and which databases use them. 

Single Search Box

The single search box is becoming the most common type of search box and you'll find it both in web-based search engines as well as library research databases. Databases such as Google and it's subsets, and Library One Search, use the single search box. 



  • Most single search boxes will automatically insert the boolean "AND" between any words put in the box
  • To search a list of words as a phrase, put quotes marks  ("") around the phrase
  • If the search engine accepts boolean operators (not all do) type the operators in CAPS
  • Keep the search simple - do not put synonyms in the search, instead, do separate searches for each synonym
  • Most single search boxes will display results in relevancy rank - if you want to see just the most recent relevant items, do not resort the results sets by date - instead, limit the set by year and keep it sorted by relevancy.


Advanced Search w/ Specific Fields

Many single search box engines (such as Google and Library One Search) will also provide an "advanced" search screen giving you search boxes for the specific sections (aka "fields") within a record.  


  • Do not fill in all the search boxes, use only the minimum number for which you can still get good results.
  • The box that says "with these terms" (or something similar) is the same as the single search box, so follow all the suggestions for single box searching. 

Advanced Search w/ Concept Boxes and Fields

The "three row/concept" is the easiest search form to work with when you know not only your concept terms but also their synonyms.   This type of interface is an "advanced" search interface most commonly found in traditional library research databases such as ABI/Inform, Compendex, Inspec, and Web of Science. 

  • Put one concept per row. 

  • In each row, use OR operator in between synonyms.

  • Use the field drop down menu to limit the concept to either the title or subject (controlled vocabulary, descriptor, etc.) as appropriate.


SciFinder is unique among the literature databases as its search box requires natural language rather than a keyword list or boolean commands. 

  • Enter your topic as a succinct phrase with prepositions 
    • tensile strength of aluminum alloys

  • Do not use boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT, ANDNOT) as words in the phrase

  • Try several different ways to phrase your topic; word position within the phrase can affect the results

  • To add a synonym or additional concept put the additional term in parenthesis after the corresponding word
    • tensile (shear) strength of aluminum alloys 

  • The system automatically stems words and inserts synonyms for the chemical terminology - you cannot turn this feature "off" however the options in the results list will let you choose between exact matches and concept matching (the latter includes word stemming and synonyms)
  • For substances with multi-segmented or multi-word names, the research topic search may not recognize the words as one entity; if this happens, use the "Explore substances" option (at the top of the screen) and then select Substance Identifier in the left column.   

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