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FYUR 10201: How Do You Win a Food Fight? - Kercher


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Janet Vogel
Director, Hiram College Library
11694 Hayden Street, P.O. Box 67
Hiram, OH 44234
(330) 569-5353

Specialized Background Information

After gaining basic background from a general encyclopedia, consider looking for more in depth background information in specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias.  Reading relevant entries from a subject-specific encyclopedia will provide more sophisticated context, concepts, and vocabulary in given fields, thus helping you expand and refine your search terms.

Look up subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries in the Libraries' Catalog by adding the word "encyclopedias" or "dictionaries" to your keyword search.  For example, to find a psychology encyclopedia you could perform the following search in the catalog: psychology encyclopedia.

General Background Information

Often, it is helpful to consult a general source when you are beginning your research so that you can learn more about it and narrow your search terms. The Hiram College Library offers databases that search a variety of sources as well as databases that are subject specific (Nursing, History, Science, etc.). Below are some general-purpose databases to help you get started. 

Visit the A-Z list of databases for a complete list of all of Hiram College Library's database subscriptions listed alphabetically by name. Note that the name of the database might not match the subject. For example, CINAHL is a database about nursing, but it does not have nursing in its title. The search box at the top of the page allows you to search for subjects to narrow down your list of database choices. 

Sample Subject Search on A to Z database page

Hiram College Library Local Catalog

Search for books using Hiram College Library catalog.

Hiram College Library Local Catalog

Advanced Search

Keywords vs Subject Terms

Subject headings describe the content of each item in a database. Use these headings to find relevant items on the same topic.  Searching by subject headings (a.k.a. descriptors) is the most precise way to search article databases.

It is not easy to guess which subject headings are used in a given database. For example, the phone book's Yellow Pages use subject headings. If you look for "Movie Theatres" you will find nothing, as they are listed under the subject heading "Theatres - Movies."

Keyword searching is how you typically search web search engines.  Think of important words or phrases and type them in to get results.

Here are some key points about each type of search:


  • natural language words describing your topic - good to start with
  • pre-defined "controlled vocabulary" words used to describe the content of each item (book, journal article) in a database
  • more flexible to search by - can combine together in many ways
  • less flexible to search by - need to know the exact controlled vocabulary term
  • database looks for keywords anywhere in the record - not necessarily connected together
  • database looks for subjects only in the subject heading or descriptor field, where the most relevant words appear
  • may yield too many or too few results
  • if too many results - also uses subheadings to focus on one aspect of the broader subject
  • may yield many irrelevant results
  • results usually very relevant to the topic

When you search a database and do not get the results you expect, Ask Us for advice.