This set of pages (see left sidebar) is designed to explain and demonstrate some basic techniques that will help you improve your searching techniques—not only for academic research projects, but also for any kind of online search you may do. Start with the definitions and examples below, then explore the rest of the topics listed in the Related Pages sidebar. Each section features explanations and examples, with clickable links, which illustrate the principles being discussed.

Screenshot from IMDB page on The Hunger Games
Part of entry from Internet Movie Database

An organized collection of facts and information which can be searched using criteria to find certain specified items, called “records”

  • Internet Movie Database
  • library catalogs (e.g., ALICE)
  • article databases (e.g., Academic Search Complete)
  • web search engines (e.g., Google)


An individual unit in a database which describes one item; each record has several sub-parts, called “fields”

  • an entry in Internet Movie Database, such as this one for The Hunger Games
  • a record for a single book, article, web page, etc. in the search results in ALICE, Academic Search Complete or Google


A single bit of information in a record in a database.

  • title, date, director, writers, stars, etc. for a record in IMDB
  • name, address, or phone number in (or a printed phone book)
  • author, title, location, or call number in ALICE