There are many different ways to search for information in databases.
One way to get you started with searching is to:
If a database has a thesaurus (CINAHL has CINAHL Headings; Medline has MeSH), you can browse it for subject headings, see the scope note or definition of a subject heading, and see related terms that you might use.
Start developing a search strategy by identifying the key words and concepts within your research question.
For example: What strategies can healthcare workers use to communicate effectively with clients with a hearing disability?
Treat each component as a separate concept (there are usually between 2-4 concepts).
For each concept list the key words derived from your research question, as well as any other relevant terms or synonyms that you have found in your preliminary searches. Also consider singular and plural forms of words, variant spellings, acronyms and relevant index terms (subject headings).
While the term strategies has been identified as a concept in this example, there are likely to be relevant articles that do not include terms such as strategies. As such, this concept would not be included in the final search strategy.
|Search concept 1||Search concept 2||Search concept 3||Search concept 4|
|strategies||healthcare workers||communication||hearing disability|
|methods||healthcare professionals||communicating||hearing impairment|
|health personnel||interpersonal communication||hearing impaired|
|health professional||communication skills||deaf|
The above search strategy in a nested format (for use in a single search box) would look like:
("healthcare worker*" OR "health care worker*" OR "healthcare professional*" OR "health professional*" OR "health personnel") AND (communicat* OR "interpersonal communication" OR "communication skill*") AND ("hearing disabilit*" OR "hearing impair*" OR deaf* OR "hard of hearing" OR "hearing loss")
Example: hearing impaired OR deaf
Example: hearing impaired AND communication
Example: hearing impaired NOT deaf will retrieve all results that include the words hearing impaired but don’t contain the word deaf.
Use quotes to keep word order when searching for phrases
For phrase searching, place two or more words in "inverted commas" or "quote marks".
Example: “hearing impaired”
In some databases, words may be searched separately if the quote marks are not used. In other databases, word order may be maintained without the need for quote marks.
See the Database operators guide for details on phrase searching in key databases, or check the Help link in any database.
Image courtesy Texas library
Truncation is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.
Truncation - The truncation symbol is commonly an asterisk * and is added at the end of a word.
Example: strateg* will retrieve strategy, strategies, strategic, strategize etc
Note: If you don't want to retrieve all possible variations, an easy alternative is to utilise the OR operator instead e.g. strategy OR strategies.
Wildcard - Wildcard symbols include the question mark ? and hash #. They replace zero, one or more characters in the middle of a word.
Example: wom#n finds woman or women, p?ediatric finds pediatric or paediatric.
The symbols may vary in different databases - See the Database operators guide on the left for details or check the Help link in any database.
Wildcard searches allow the database to replace the wildcard symbol with any letters that would make up a real word. It's like a shorthand way of typing every possible word that fits the pattern with OR in between.
|Symbol||What it does||Sample search||Instead of typing|
|*||replaces zero or more letters at the end of a word
(this is truncation)
|comput*||computer OR computing OR computational OR...|
|#||replaces at most one letter||ne#t||net OR neat OR next OR nest OR...|
|?||replaces only one letter||b?t||bat OR bet OR bit OR bot OR but OR...|
Proximity searching allows for articles with two or more terms or phrases in certain proximity to each other to be identified.
Types of proximity searches:
Dogs N5 Cats
Searches for articles with the terms "dogs" and "cats" within 5 words of each other, REGARDLESS OF ORDER.
Dog W5 Cats
Searches for articles in which the the term "cats" FOLLOWS the term "dogs" within 5 words. Only searches for the terms or phrases IN THE ORDER they are presented in the search.