Searching health databases

Texts, search tools and more to get your research started.

Search tools

Boolean operators; AND, NOT, OR. For a visual description of the three Boolean tools, click on the Venn diagram from the University of Oklahoma.

  • AND for narrowing down the search, the more you add, the narrower the results. For example, tuberculosis AND sociology
  • OR is more. It is useful for alternative words with similar meanings. It can be helpful these terms within brackets. For example, (tuberculosis OR TB)
  • NOT to add if you didn’t want research that uses a specific word. You will not need to use NOT as often. For example, tuberculosis NOT animal, this will exclude all literature with the term “animal”.

Search strategy example; (unstable OR deteriorating OR acute) AND patient AND (elderly OR older OR aged)

“Phrase searching, this is using quote marks. For example, searching “cystic fibrosis” with the quotation will only show results of this exact phrase.

Truncation * is useful to find words with different endings. Commonly using the asterisk symbol, but this may change depending on the database. Going to the help page and searching truncation, will specific what symbol to use. For example, for child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood OR genetic* = genetic, genetics, genetically

Wildcard is for replacing a single character. For example, wom?n will retrieve woman or women

Subject Heading searching

Subject Heading searching

Searching with subject headings can be a more precise way to find evidence. A lot of our health databases have their own subject headings. Please watch the videos below to learn more.