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Postgraduate Nursing: Search Tips

formaly Master of Nursing

Common Search Tips

There are a number of techniques you can use while searching journal databases and other electronic information resources to get better and more relevant results. If you're looking in a specific database there is a lot more detail and tips under the relevant tabs. Here are some broadly applied search tips.

Basic and advanced search

Basic search usually involves one search box, with a few options about searching a specific collection or field. This is useful for quick, general searching. When you have multiple keywords or complex search queries, using Advanced search is where you should head. It will allow you to tailor your search using all the powers of a good database, including built-in search operators and options for field searching and limiters.

Most databases will have a link to Advanced Search next to their Basic search option. Advanced Search in Google Scholar is accessible from the menu.

Search operators

Use these in journal databases with your keywords to refine your searches and specify exactly what you want to find.  Some of the below won't work as well in Google Scholar and there will be some variation in the way they are used in different databases, so do check our Searching in the Database Platforms guide to be sure.

Search Operator Example
Use AND to retrieve results that contain both of your search terms. nurs* AND treat*
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. "cardiac arrest" OR "heart attack"
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. (Use caution with this operator - you don't want to throw out potentially useful results) "cardiac arrest" NOT prehospital
Group terms or equivalent keywords with parentheses to create complex searches. (cardiac arrest OR heart attack) AND treat*
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "prehospital care"
Search for terms with different word endings using an asterisk. treat* = treats, treatment, treating
A question mark can be used to replace a single letter within a word. analy?e = analyse, analyze
A proximity symbol can be used to force a search where one keyword appears  within a certain range of another keyword cardiac arrest N3 treat* (note: proximity operators may vary between databases, check database help pages for more information)

Field searching and limiters

Most databases will allow you to specify which field you want to search. Common fields include author, title, dates, and subject headings/topic, and these are usually available in both basic and advanced search. 

Once you've searched, you can also limit your results by some of these fields. This is extremely useful if you want all of your articles to have been published within a certain date range, or for them all to be peer-reviewed or in English. Look for these in the menus beside your search results. 

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