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Advanced Searching Techniques: Search Histories

What is a search history?

In EBSCO databases, searches performed during your session are available from the Search History/Alerts Screen. 

Search histories can be helpful, particularly when you have a complex search involving numerous concepts and synonyms. They allow you to perform different combinations of searches without entering a whole new search every time. 

Additionally, they will help to create a properly formatted boolean operator search. 

If you are carrying out a thorough, comprehensive search, you should keep your search terms on different lines and combine them at the end. 

In many cases, you will need to use the search history to see previous search lines and use the search operator to combine them.


Search histories allow you to perform a separate search for each concept of your topic, each of which will be added to the Search History e.g.

Search 1-  financ* or "tution fees" or "course fees" or loans or rent in Abstract field

Search 2-  "mental health" or "mental illness" or "mental disorders" or depress* or anxiety in Abstract field

Search 3-  "University students" or undergraduates or postgraduates or Masters or doctoral or PhD in Abstract field

The Search History allows you to combine these searches together, using the AND operator, to retrieve your final results.

In this example, our final results would consist of studies where: either of the terms from Search 1 AND either of the terms from Search 2 AND either of the terms from Search 3 appear together in the abstract.


Source 1 and source 2

How to use the search history?

For example, if you and the research question:

  • What did Canadian women do to help the war effort during the first world war? You might use the following keywords and related synonyms :
    • Women or Woman or "Home Front"
    • "First World War" Or "World War I" Or "World War 1" Or "1914-1918" Or WW1 Or WWi Or "The Great War"
    • Canada or Canadian 

To use the "search history" feature follow these steps:

Step 1: Run a search for each keyword grouping separately 

Visual representative of step 1 instructions

Visual representative of step 1 instructions

Visual representative of step 1 instructions

Step 2: Click on search history 

Visual representative of step 2 instructions

Step 3: Delete your last search from the boxes

Visual representative of step 3 instructions

Step 4: Click on the boxes next to each search and then select search with AND

Visual representative of step 4 instructions

Step 5: Click on "search history" to close it

Step 6: Add any filters you want

Step 7: Explore the results and adjust the search if necessary 

How to use the search history (complex)?

"Search histories" are particularly useful when you combine this strategy with searching in "field codes."

When you search for keywords without specifying a field, the database searches every field, including the full text. Your keywords might only appear once in the text, but the database will still return it has a search result. 

So one method for returning more relevant results is to search for the keyword(s) within the title, abstract and subject terms. However, unlike the basic keyword search, you must search each of your terms individually with each field. This is where search histories are a vital tool. 

Please watch the video below for an example search.

*Note: There is no sound on the video

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