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Science honours: Searching within databases

Database searching

For HRS411 you need to produce a literature review.  This page contains information about searching within databases.

Many of you will be searching Ebscohost and OVID databases so, in this section of the guide, we have included information on how to search an Allied Health and Nursing related Ebscohost database (CINAHL) and a Biomedical related OVID database (Medline).

You can find information and guidance on other discipline specific databases by clicking on the page for your discipline in this guide.

Finding Specific Types of Research

For HRS410, you will need to compare articles with different search methods, representing quantitative research and qualitative research

To find quantitative research

  • To find an article on an epidemiology question, use search terms that indicate the population group you are interested in, the disease of interest, and what measurement you are interested in (eg. prevalen*, incidence, severity, frequen*).
  • If your epidemiology question concerns a possible correlation between two variables, try using a Boolean phrase such as correlat* OR associat* OR risk factor in addition to naming the variables you are interested in.
  • To search for an intervention effectiveness (experimental) study, use a phrase such as intervention OR effect* OR trial. Add keywords that indicate the population, intervention, and outcome of interest.
  • To find a systematic review article, see if there is a way to restrict your finds to Review (eg. the Publication Type limiter in CINAHL Plus with Full Text includes an option for Systematic Review).
  • For diagnostic and prognostic questions, include possible variants of the disorder/disease you are interested in, along with the terms assess* OR diagnos*, or the term prognos*.

To find qualitative research:

When searching for your two qualitative articles, include lived experience OR qualitative as a line in your search, along with terms that indicate the group, setting, or health condition you are interested in.

Remember that qualitative research is identifiable by the type of data collected (non-numerical), not the topic of the data.

Remember also that you need to find two qualitative articles that use different methods of qualitative data collection and/or analysis (eg. interview, focus group, case study, ethnography, phenomenology, photo-elicitation, observation). You can use these as search terms, or, sometimes, as limiters.


Limiting or Refining by Date

Don't forget that you need to find articles published in the last 10 years. Primo Search and databases give you the option to limit (at the time a search is run) or refine (after the search has been run) your results by date.

Why use Citation databases?

Citation databases have been developed to help evaluate publications and identify which articles or journals are the most cited and which research has had the greatest impact.Whether it is information about a particular author or subject area you can use citation databases to count citations, find related works that share references or authors and set up alerts to notify you when a document or author is cited elsewhere. In addition, you use citation databases to check and track citation data year-by-year, navigating forward and backward through the literature related to a topic to evaluate its importance to research.

Charles Sturt University subscribes to two citation databases Scopus and Web of Science and you find out more about them by looking at the Citation database webpage.

qualitative vs quantative research

Tracking Citations

Once you have found a good article, you can use its citations or reference list to find additional resources. There are two ways you can do this:

1. Footnote chasing: You look at an information source's citation list - this will lead you to material that is older.

If you find a good source of information it can be a good idea to take a look at its reference list to see if you can find any other useful resources.

Things to note:

  • This method helps you find information that is older. If the source you are looking at is already quite old, this may not be the best method to employ, though there is certainly no harm in looking.
  • Every article you find using this method should be subjected to the same evaluative scrutiny as any other information source.

2. Citation searching: You look at who has cited the information source - this will lead you to material that is newer.

Some, but not all, databases including Google Scholar have a feature where you can see who has cited the resource you're looking at.

Things to note:

  • The database is unlikely to show you every citing article. This is because no database will contain every resource written on a topic. A database can only compare its own records.
  • Every article you find using this method should be subjected to the same evaluative scrutiny as any other information source.