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Nursing Resources & Research Guide

Getting Started

Database Search Fundamentals

1.  Keywords & Search Terms

Identify a variety of related words and phrases (synonyms) appropriate to your topic.

For example: aging, elderly, elderly people, seniors, senior citizens, elder care, elderly care, geriatrics, geriatric care, geriatric medicine, medical gerontology,etc. Writing down a list can prompt additional ideas.

Enter each term in your search engine (alone and in combinations) and compare the results. Examine the subject terms (also called subject headings or keywords) listed within each article record--these serve as "tags" to categorize content.

2.  Boolean Operators

Combine your keywords and phrases using the following operators.

RMIT University, Australia (2002-08-07)

3.  Phrase Searching

Place quotation marks around a phrase to ensure that the search engine seeks the entire phrase—not the words separately. For example: “alarm fatigue," "blood test," "elder care," and so forth.

4.  Truncation

Wildcard symbols can help expand the scope of your search. In most databases, this symbol is an asterisk ( * ), although sometimes others are used ( ? ! + $). Identify the root portion of your keyword and add the symbol. For example: nurs* will search for nurse, nurses, nursing, etc.

5.  Consult the Help page (or equivalent) for tips in each database.

Although search engines principally operate alike, each may have its own unique features (such as the truncation symbol indicated above).

6.  Search Strategy Builder (National University Library)

Visit the Search Strategy Builder at National University  to generate complete search scripts quickly.