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Nursing/Health Sciences: Searching Databases

A guide to help you select resources useful for the Health Sciences and Nursing curriculum.

Database Search Strategies

Accessing Library Databases

Go to the SRC Library webpage and select Databases A-Z, or visit the Resources tab above to find direct links to databases that coincide with Nursing and Health Sciences. 

*Access is available to students on all campuses on and off campus with your library card number found on the back of your student ID card. When prompted for this number, be sure to use a capital 'D' and your digits with no spaces in between (example: D8692xxxxx).*

The following tabs will give you strategies on how to search for materials in the library databases. 

Terminology searching focuses on the words that you use when conducting a search. 

Keyword
The most common type of search is a keyword search. This is when you type a word into the search box and click "Search" without adding any additional information, that is a keyword search. For example: flu

Phrase
Phrase searching is similar to keyword searching, but instead of searching for one word, you're searching for a phrase. Phrases are surrounded by quotation marks to keep the words of the phrase together, otherwise the search interface will usually search for the words separately, anywhere, not necessarily together. For example, searching for "walking pneumonia" -including the quotations marks- will search for the phrase together instead of the word walking in one location and pneumonia in another location. 

Proximity
Proximity searching enables you to search for two or more words that occur close to one another in a database.The number in the search phrase tells the search interface how many words away from each other the search terms can be. This allows a limited number of other words to be placed between the search terms, providing more possibilities for search retrieval within a limited scope.
Near operators, usually using the letter N, search for words in any order. For example,
Within operators, usually using the letter W, search for words in the order you place them. For example, 

 

Here’s the order of terminology search types based on restrictions placed upon the search.

  • Keyword searches = no restrictions. The database can search for the terms in any order and at any distance from each other.
  • Proximity searches = some restrictions. The database can search for the terms either in any order (near) or in a specific order (within). The database is restricted to allowing a limited number of other words to appear between the search terms (the number in the proximity operator).
  • Phrase searches = restricted. The database must search for the terms in the order provided with no other words being allowed to appear between the search terms that are placed in quotation marks.

Boolean operators define the relationship between search terms. When you use a Boolean search, keywords are combined by the operators AND, OR, and NOT. You can use these operators in the database search interface to create a very broad or very narrow search. 

  • AND combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. The AND operator limits the search because the sources in the results must contain both terms.
  • OR combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. The OR operator expands the search because the sources in the results can contain either term.
  • NOT excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow the NOT operator. The NOT operator limits the search because the sources in the results cannot include the term following the word NOT.

Below are a few diagrams illustrating how Boolean operators limit or expand searches. 

AND = searches for sources that contain both sources; 
example: 
diabetes AND diet

OR = searches for sources that contain either word (the first word, the second word, or both words); example:
diabetes OR diet
 NOT = searches for sources that contain the word before the Boolean NOT, but not the word after the NOT; example:
diabetes NOT diet

 

Wildcard searching replaces the wildcard character with any other character or characters, or sometimes no characters. Common wildcard characters include the asterisk (*), pound sign or hashtag (#), or question mark (?). Some databases accept multiple wildcard characters. Others only accept one or two. Be sure to check the database's "Help" page to find out this information.

  • For example, a search for b*rn finds both born and bourn; it can also expand more than that

Truncation searching is a specific type of wildcard search that replaces the wildcard character with any other character or series of characters at the end of the word. Truncation characters are almost always asterisks (*).

  • For example, a search for direc* finds director, direct, direction, etc.

 

Field terms are words or phrases located in an item's record according to a specific type, or field. To search according to field term, select the field from the drop-down menu next to the search box.

  • keyword search looks for your search terms anywhere in an item's record. They could be in an author's name, a title, an abstract, or somewhere in the technical coding. Keyword searches are automatic in most search systems. If you don't see an option for "Keyword" in the drop-down menu, then the search interface will search by keyword in its default setting.
  • An author search looks for your search terms ONLY in the author fields for an item's record. Sources have different types of author fields: main author, translator, editor, etc. This search will look in all of those fields.
  • title search looks for your search terms ONLY in the title fields for an item's record. Sources also have different types of title fields: main title, subtitle, series title, etc. This search will usually look in all of those fields.
  • subject search looks for your search terms ONLY in the subjects for an item's record. This usually means a search in the system's controlled vocabulary. (Controlled vocabularies are like specialized thesauri. Organizations agree to use one word or phrase to describe an idea. From there, indexers will associate the controlled vocabulary with sources. For example, instead of movie, film, video, motion picture, a catalog would only use the phrase motion picture to describe all of those things.) Because subject searches are more precise, they usually return more relevant results.
    • Remember that MeSH terms are specialized subject terms!
  • A search in the ISSN/ISBN/OCLC field searches for specific numbers.
    • An ISSN is an International Standard Serial Number, which is used to identify serial publications, such as journals or magazines.
    • An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number, which is used to identify books.
    • OCLC stands for Online Computer Library Center. The OCLC number is a specific number used to identify materials cataloged in the OCLC network of libraries. Many, but not all, items will have this number.

These are the main field search limiters that will appear in most search systems. Many databases will have additional field terms, such as geographic locations or other numeric codes. Explore the drop-down menus to find out what’s available.

Reference Sources

If you find that you are running into unfamiliar concepts or vocabulary while researching. Try using the Credo Reference database to provide background information on your topic. 

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