Answered By: Daniel Dylla
Last Updated: Mar 02, 2016     Views: 132

Several reasons! See below.

Before we get into them, it's worth making clear that there is a checkbox you'll commonly see in library databases that says "Full Text." What this checkbox does is ensure that all results returned contain the entire content of the articles. Sometimes databases index an article but do not have permission to show its full text until a certain time has passed (called an embargo) or for other reasons. By checking the "Full Text" checkbox, you instruct the database to ignore all articles that cannot be read in full at that time.

OK, back to why we would want to search in the full text of articles.

Normally, library databases search through particular parts of an article -- the title, author, publication, or abstract, to give some examples. This information is called metadata -- data about data. It is taxing computationally to search through the full text every time, and there are also times where we prefer to see whether an article is about some topic, and searching through metadata is a good way to do this. Just because something is mentioned in the 27th paragraph doesn't mean it's something that's about our topic. Normally, when searching through library databases, we'll want to use subject or keyword searches for our topics.

Here are some common reasons you might want to search in full text:

  • You want to broaden your search
    • If you are getting very few results, we might want to try searching through all of the text. Another option, often better, is to reevaluate our search terms and try new keywords.
  • You want to search for a very particular sentence
    • If you know you read a sentence somewhere, we can try searching for it exactly. But don't overestimate your memory.

Remember -- searching through Full Text is a tool to use, just like everything else in the library. We always want to use the right tool for the right job.

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