How to Do Library Research
Using Preferred Terms: Examples
In science indexes, the preferred subject term for a plant or animal is usually the scientific classification (Genus and species) . There are reference books with these terms (which often are in Latin), but you might also try your search in English (or whatever language is easiest for you) and see if there are any items on your topic. If there are, look in the subject field for the term or terms used in the database and do another search with the preferred term.
In AGRICOLA, a search for snapdragons finds among the 260 results the following article:
"Yield, quality and profitability of sensor-controlled irrigation: a case study of snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus L.) production."
Irrigation science, 2016 Sept., 34.5 p. 409-420.
When you look in the DE (Descriptors) field, you see the following:
Antirrhinum majus; case studies; crops; cultivars; cut flowers; disease incidence; electricity; greenhouses; harvest date; income; irrigation scheduling; irrigation systems; labor; on-farm research; profitability; sales; stems
A new search for "antirrhinum majus" identifies 1477 records. If you plan on narrowing your search to something specific, such as "crops," you will get better results with antirrhinum majus than with snapdragons. In this instance, with antirrhinum majus you find 33 records instead of 0. The differences may not always be this dramatic, but it is always a good idea to do your search with the preferred term.
|Search||Results (Oct. 26, 2017)|
|antirrhinum majus||623 (436 as a subject)|
|snapdragons AND crops||0|
|antirrhinum majus AND crops||33|
|(antirrhinum majus OR snapdragons) AND crops||50|
To make sure you are catching as much as possible, do a search with both the Latin and English term.
When doing research on conservation of the gray wolf, it is better to search for "Canis lupus." A search in CAB Abstracts locates:
|CAB Abstracts 1973-||Results (Oct. 26, 2017)|
|(gray wolf or gray wol*) AND conservation||105|
|Canis lupus AND conservation||323|
|(canis lupus OR gray wolf OR gray wol*) AND conservation||353|
This example also shows how the preferred term can make a difference in the number of items identified. Do a search with the Latin and English term to be sure to identify the most records.
These are just a few examples showing the importance of using preferred subject headings. Most library databases use subject terms.