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BSN Year One & Two Nursing: Search Strategies

Developing your search

Sample topic:  Is patient education effective in reducing COPD among smokers?

Identify the concepts in your topic:

  1. patient education
  2. COPD
  3. smokers

Use a dictionary, thesaurus, textbook, database or CINAHL Headings to find alternative search terms:

  1. patient education
  2. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  3. smoking cessation

 

Subject Headings

Subject headings: Pre-set tags or descriptors assigned to resources/items to describe their content, or what they are about. Enables more precise searching.

Eliminates the need to search multiple phrases and synonyms for the same concept. 
Databases often provide a thesaurus, or index, of the subject headings used.
SHs appear in both the Library catalogue and databases.

Truncation & Wildcards

Truncate words to increase your search results

Truncation is used to find variations of a word ending. Truncating a word will usually EXPAND your search

Example: Remove the ending of the word children, replace with * (or ? in library catalogue), child*

Searches for child, children, childish, child's, etc.

Wildcards increase your search results

Wildcards allow you to find variations within a word.

Example: Organi?ation will find organization and organisation (or % in the library catalogue)

NOTE: Different databases use different symbols!  Check the Help area to learn the symbols for that database. 

Proximity decreases your search results

Proximity operators allow you to locate one word within a certain distance of another. 

Example: Canada w3 economy. Searches for results in which the word Canada appears within 3 words of economy

Improve Search Results

Too many sources... 

  • You need to narrow your search
  • Use database LIMITERS (language, peer reviewed/scholarly, date, resource/material type)
  • Try the ADVANCED search option
    • AND between search concepts
    • Subject, author, or other selections from drop-down
    • Use database headings or the thesaurus
  • Add additional concepts to your search  and avoid general, less specific search terms
  • Choose subject headings as your search type
  • Search for significant words in the TITLE of the article
  • Select specific article types

Too few sources....

  • You need to expand your search
  • Look for mispellings or typos in your search
  • Expand a search term by using synonyms (ie. poverty OR hardship OR welfare OR famine OR impoverish)
  • Decrease your number of search terms/concepts to broaden your search (ie. Canada AND poverty AND children --> Canada AND poverty)
  • Try broader or more general search terms (ie. sympathetic --> empathy)
  • Try truncating search terms to find alternate endings (ie. Canad* = Canadian, Canada, Canadians, Canadiana, etc.)
  • Use the database's thesaurus or index to find the exact subject heading
  • Remove unnecessary limiters
  • Avoid sentences, long phrases, idioms, and abbreviations
  • Use the database's 'related articles' feature
  • Try other databases
  • Turn OFF the "available in OC collection" limiter in OCtopus

Advanced Tips & Tricks

Limiters / Filters

Use the limiters on the sidebar of results pages

Example: Date, language, resource type, etc.

"Quotation Marks"

Phrase searching: Add " " around words to search an exact phrase.

Works in databases and Google!

Field Searching

Search for terms in a specific field, such as title, author, or subject

Example: "Global hunger"[ti]

Subject Headings Construct a search using only subject headings, or a combination of SH and keywords. 
Scan Results Use subject headings, keywords, and phrases found in existing results.
Research the Author Find an interesting author? Search for more articles or look for their web site
Agency or Association? Notice an agency, association or expert mentioned in an article? Follow up.
Reuse References/Citations Find a relevant source? Examine the bibliography, reference list, citations and footnotes for sources used by the author. Use OCtopus or the e-journal finder to find the same articles.

Save + Document Your Searches

Don't lose your articles or searches! Access from home, on-campus, or anywhere. Most databases allow you to create folders or personal accounts to save your research.

Citation & Reference List Searching

Find a relevant source and the use citations to locate more related sources. Examine the bibliography, reference list and footnotes for sources used by the author. Use OCtopus or the e-journal finder to find your articles.

Going Beyond the Basics

ScholarWhy can't I just use Google or Google Scholar? Google misses content from the "deep web", including databases/articles the Library pays for (not publicly accessible). Google Scholar may bring up academic information, but you will likely be restricted from accessing content without paying, UNLESS you set up the Library Links Program with your Google Profile. Using Google Scholar with library links allows you to find information and access it FREE through OC Library. 

Library Help

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