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Database Search Tips: Field


Databases separate information into fields.

For focused searches, most databases allow you to limit your search to a field.

Common database fields include:

  • Author
  • Article Title
  • Abstract
  • Journal Title
  • Subject Headings

What is Field Searching?

You can tell the database where to search for a certain word in the record. Telling the database to search in one specific area for a word or words is called field searching.


  • If you don't select a specific field, most databases automatically search the Title, Abstract, & Subject Heading fields. If you are not sure what the default search is in a specific database, check the database's HELP page.
  • Usually the field options are located in a drop-down menu next to the individual search boxes. Go to the Advanced Search screen if you do not see the boxes.


Definitions of Common Fields

Where will the database search when each field is chosen?

Here are some common fields you can search in most databases and what they mean:

  • Author: Type in an author's name and choose this field to find articles by this author. Often authors write more than one article on a specific topic. When you have a relevant article, try searching by the author's name for more articles.


  • Title: Type in words that you want to appear in the titles of your search results. By limiting a word to the Title Field, your search results will be very focused. (If the word is in the title, it is probably a major focus of the article!)


  • Subject Headings: Limit your results to records that are assigned a specific subject heading. Go to the Subject Searching tab for information about locating and searching with subject headings. 


  • Journal Title: Type in the journal name to limit your results to articles published in this specific journal. Some journals are perfect for researching your topic.


Some databases have additional specialized fields you can search. Look in the database's Help menu where you can learn about their fields. (also called Indexes)