Definition

Field is the term used to describe specific bits of information about a Record. Examples of fields in everyday life are Name, Address, Phone Number, ZIP Code, etc. In working with information sources, typical fields include Author, Title, Date, URL, and many others. Careful use of fields in searching can greatly improve the quality of your search results.

Fields in Citations

When you are asked to compile a list of sources (a Bibliography) for a project, you will need to be able to identify the fields that describe a variety of information sources. The three most common types, and their most important fields, are listed below:

Books Articles Web Pages
  • Author(s)
  • Title
  • Edition (if given)
  • Place of publication 
  • Publisher
  • Date
  • Article author(s)
  • Article title
  • Periodical title
  • Volume and issue number of periodical 
  • Date of issue
  • Pages
  • Author(s)
  • Date of publication 
  • Title
  • URL
  • Date accessed

There are different ways of creating citations: APA, MLA, Chicago, and several others. The “correct” one is the one your professor requires for a particular class. The different styles of citations primarily amount to arranging these fields in different sequences and punctuating them in various ways. There is much more information about how to cite source on our Citing Your Sources pages.

Example

Below is part of the front page for our library catalog, ALICE. Each of the 5 choices represent different Fields which make up the Records in ALICE’s Database. Most people start with Keyword searches, which in fact include most of the other fields in an ALICE record. The Keyword field is very inclusive, but not very exact.

alice-fieldsIf you know a specific Author or Title that you are looking for, you will save a lot of time and effort to choose an Author or Title search instead of a Keyword search.

Look at the ALICE record below. Examples of Fields include Author, Title, Imprint, Descript[ion], Call Number, and several others.alice-record-climate-change

Now, try these searches and compare the specificity of results between searching by Keyword and searching by Title:

  1. Keyword search: climate change
  2. Title search: climate change
  3. Title search: climate change: a reference handbook

It should be clear from these examples that, when you are looking for a specific item, it is MUCH more efficient to search for it by its title instead of doing a Keyword search and then hunting for it.

Likewise, if you know you want books written by a certain author, do an Author search (last name first). Compare these two search results:

  1. Keyword search: J K Rowling
  2. Author search: Rowling J K

The Keyword search does include the books by J. K. Rowling, but also a number of book about her. If you only want books by an author, that’s when you should do an Author search!