7. Free Text and Thesaurus searching

  1. Caroline De Brún1 and
  2. Nicola Pearce-Smith2

Published Online: 15 NOV 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118463093.ch7

Searching Skills Toolkit: Finding the Evidence, Second Edition

Searching Skills Toolkit: Finding the Evidence, Second Edition

How to Cite

De Brún, C. and Pearce-Smith, N. (eds) (2014) Free Text and Thesaurus searching, in Searching Skills Toolkit: Finding the Evidence, Second Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118463093.ch7

Editor Information

  1. 1

    Clinical Support Librarian, UCL Library Services and Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

  2. 2

    Information Scientist, Department of Knowledge and Information Science, Summertown Pavilion, Middle Way, Oxford, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 NOV 2013
  2. Published Print: 3 JAN 2014

Book Series:

Book Series Editors:

  1. Carl Heneghan,
  2. Rafael Perera and
  3. Douglas Badenoch

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118463130

Online ISBN: 9781118463093



  • browsing;
  • database;
  • free text searching;
  • mapping;
  • natural language searching;
  • synonyms;
  • thesaurus searching


This chapter explains how one can search for evidence using free text searching and thesaurus searching. Free text searching, also known as natural language searching, means that the database will search for exactly what you type into the box, in any field of a record. This is the natural way to search but not necessarily the most effective. To ensure that no literature is missed, it is important to recognise the existence of different spelling and variances in terminology for the same search topics. One way to overcome these differences when searching a database is to use the thesaurus. Searching a database using specific thesaurus terms aids the retrieval of records on the same topic. A good reason for searching the thesaurus is that one term often incorporates a range of synonyms. In most databases there are two ways to use the thesaurus – browsing or automatic mapping.