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Ohio University

Global & International Health

Searching Like a Pro

Unfortunately, databases do not understand full sentences and are not always like Google. In Google I can type, "What's the weather like in Vancouver this weekend?" and I will receive the answer. You need to dumb down your inquiry to short, important pieces of information.

I.E.: Vancouver / Weather / August 8 2015

Once you have the meat (key concepts) of your inquiry figured out, you can then start to put together a search strategy; which is where the Boolean Search Terms come in hand (see image below). You should consider synonyms as well. Perhaps others refer to dogs as canines in their article or specifically the breed German Shepard. You want to make sure you get ALL of the relevant possibilities for your research.

In-depth Search

At some point, you will be asked to write on or explore a topic that is more in-depth and thus will require a more comprehensive search. This can be a big task and where do you begin?
  1. I always start with the same matrix as seen below to keep my thoughts organized. On the left I will write my original concepts
  2. Next, I see if the database I am using has a thesaurus/subject heading database built within it. (MeSH is found in PubMed). I do this to understand how my term will be interpreted and if I agree. In the case of Managment, I may choose to include Centers for Disease Management OR Vaccines depending on my scope. (Again, see below)
  3. The last column is designed for words that are not included in the designated subject heading terminology or other synonyms in which my concept could be referred to in the literature. A great example is outbreak. Perhaps authors wrote in a way that the term epidemic made more sense for their context or simply occurrence. You may want to include these other words (synonyms) using OR in your search to ensure you are getting all the relevant material