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Bethel University Library

Nursing Research

Search Strategies

Below are some common techniques used when searching research databases, and how they can help you find the information you're looking for.

Search with AND

How AND works:
And tells the search tool that you are using to find articles that use both/all of your search terms and to ignore articles that might use just one of your search terms

Searching for "Heart Disease AND smoking" will retrieve articles that discuss heart disease as it relates to smoking, but will not retrieve articles on heart disease that focus on other factors

Search with OR

How OR works:
Searches with OR will tell the search tool to find articles that use either of your search terms, even if an article contains one term and not the other(s)

You might search for similar keywords and use OR between them. Searching for "Venous Thrombosis OR Deep Vein Thrombosis" will find articles that use either term

Search using quotation marks

How quotation marks work:
Placing a phrase in quotation marks will tell the search tool that you want to find an exact match for that phrase, as opposed to articles that match just part of the phrase.

Searching for "Evidence Based Medicine" in quotation marks, as shown, will prioritize results that have that exact phrase over articles that just have part of the phrase, such as "medicine" only.

Use medical terminology

How to incorporate medical terms into your searches:
When searching in databases that have mostly or exclusively medical and health literature, scientific terminology will help you get more precise results.

Searching for Myocarditis can be more effective than searching for "heart inflammation."

Using Subject Terms

Subject Terms are a more precise way to search for articles, and knowing how to search by Subject can help you find the most relevant information for your topic.   Knowing what subject to search for is difficult, though.

Locating Subject Terms

One way to locate subject terms is to look closely at an article you've already found. Many medical databases list Subject Terms or Medical Subject Headings in the record or summary of the article. The headings are a link that can be clicked on to read other articles that use the same subject terms.

Why Subjects?

Subjects are standardized, so every article on a given subject should be assigned the same term. A keyword search will generally be less accurate than a subject search.