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Resources for Nursing: Frame Your Search Strategy

This guide will lead you to resources that help your study and research in the field of Nursing and Midwifery. There are also a range of learning tools that will allow you to develop your research and study skills.

Search Tips

Improving your search results using phrase searching, truncation and wild cards.


Truncating a term will look for all words which start with the root word you have entered. Truncation is particularly good for variant endings and plurals.

Examples as below:

teen* will find teen, teens, teenager, teenagers

educat* will retrieve words: educate, educators, education, educates …

Wild Cards

You can  use wildcards to improve your search for words with variant spellings. Different databases use different symbols so make sure you check the Help pages on each resource. On the Ebsco datababases the ? is used to replace one character and the # to replace 1 or more.

See examples below.

Colo#r will find color as well as colour

Behavio#r will find behavior as well as behavior

Wom?n will find woman or women                                

Phrase Searching

Many databases (including the library catalogue) automatically insert an AND in between your search terms, so if you enter Nurses Job Satisfaction it will look for articles which include the terms Nurses AND Job AND Satisfaction. To ensure only the phrase 'Job Satisfaction' is searched, you can enclose this within double quotation marks, i.e. "job satisfaction".

Using phrase searching will help narrow your search and make it more specific.

Planning a strategy

Before you start searching for information in electronic databases, it's always worth spending some time thinking about your search terms. This planning process is known as framing your search strategy.

Start with a topic

Brainstorm a Topic that Interests You:

–Think of topics for which you have:
–  personal interest,
–  knowledge or life experience
–  an opinion
–  a desire to learn more.
 If no topic seems interesting:
– take 5 minutes and write down any ideas related to the assignment that come to mind, then look at what you wrote for a pattern or an idea that stands out.
– review your course textbook(s) and class notes for something interesting.

Read general background information

• Read an encyclopedia article on the two or three topics you are considering. Reading a broad summary enables you to get an overview of the topic and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower and related issues. It also provides a great source for finding words commonly used to describe the topic.

• Use article databases to scan current magazine, journal or newspaper articles on the topic.    

• Use Web search engines to find Web sites on the topic.

How to construct a search statement?

Identify keywords & main concepts

List synonyms for each concept


Find broader terms for each concept


Exercise & diet for preventing type 2 diabetes mellitus

Concept 1    Concept 2 Concept 3
Exercise Diet Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus


Identify Synonyms & Broader/related terms:

         Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
Terms Exercise       Diet Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Synonyms Physical Activity Eating habits T2DM, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
Broader Terms Life Style Life Style Diabetes Mellitus


Video from San Diego University Library

Combining Search terms using Boolean

Boolean search: AND- narrows a search

Search for T2DM AND Exercise

Boolean search: OR- broadens a search

Search for  Exercise OR Physical Activity

Boolean search: NOT- limits a search 

Search for T2DM NOT T1DM