For some more tips and tricks to database searching, watch these short videos:
Contact a librarian if you would like some help searching for information on your topic or tracking down the full text of an article. That's why we're here!
Two quick ways to start searching for your topic:
- OR -
Most databases offer filters or limits for type of study. For instance, when searching for Level 1 evidence on your topic, you may be able to select systematic review and/or randomized controlled trial so that only those types of studies will appear in your result list.
Subject headings describe the content of each item in a database. Use these headings to find relevant items on the same topic. Searching by subject headings (a.k.a. descriptors) is the most precise way to search within article databases.
Keyword searching is how you typically search the Web. Think of important words or phrases and type them in the search box to get results.
Here are some key points about each type of search:
|Natural language words describing your topic - good starting point
|Pre-defined "controlled vocabulary" words used to describe the content of each item (book, journal article) in a database
|Flexible to search with - can combine together in many ways
|Less flexible - need to know the exact controlled vocabulary term
|Database looks for keywords anywhere in the record
|Database looks for subjects only in the subject heading or descriptor field, where the most relevant words appear
|May yield too many or too few results
|If too many results are retrieved, use subheadings to focus on one aspect of the broader subject
|May yield many irrelevant results
|Results are usually very relevant to the topic
Use AND in a search to:
The purple triangle in the middle of the Venn diagram below represents the result set for this search. It is a small set using AND, the combination of all three search words.
Use OR in a search to:
All three circles represent the result set for this search. It is a big set because any of those words are valid using the OR operator.
Use NOT in a search to:
Use parentheses to combine search strings:
If you use more than one type of connector in a search statement, e.g. AND as well as OR, you need to use parentheses to keep the groups of terms together when using one search box. This procedure is sometimes called nesting. For example:
Another option is to use the Advanced Search screen where you can often combine your different terms and connectors in multiple search boxes.
Most databases allow you to specify that adjacent words be searched as phrases:
Some databases allow you to use proximity operators to find more relevant results. Rather than an exact phrase, a proximity search will find words near each other within an article or record. Proximity operators vary by database, but here are some common examples:
Truncation, also called stemming, is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.
Similar to truncation, wildcards substitute a symbol for one letter of a word.
When using any of the above search tips, you may have to first consult the database Help screens to find out which words or symbols are recognized in that particular database.
If you have questions about applying any of these techniques to your search, please Ask Us!