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The purpose of this guide is to highlight resources in Nursing, and to provide links to Internet resources in the field.

Searching Like a Pro

In Google I can type in, "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 for database searching.

For example, if I am doing research on patient care in nursing homes and the long-term affects of poor care on the residents within a database (perhaps CINAHL) I do not want to type in that ENTIRE sentence. Really I am looking for the meat of my sandwich:  Nursing Homes / Patient Care / Elderly / Resident Affect

Once you have the meat, you can then start to put together a search strategy; (see image below). You should consider synonyms as well. Perhaps other authors 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.

My search would look something like this:

Nursing Home AND Patient Care OR Nursing Care OR Long-term Care AND Elderly OR Aged OR Senior Citizen

Building an 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 (In this case PubMed) 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 patient care, I may choose to include long-term care or nursing care depending on the angle of my topic. (Again, see below)
  3. The last column is designed for words that are not included in MeSH terminology or other synonyms in which my concept could be referred to in the literature. A great example is Elderly. Perhaps authors wrote in a way that the term Senior Citizen made more sense for their context or simply senior. You may want to include these other words using OR in your search to ensure you are getting all the relevant material.

Getting too much with your PubMed Search?

Try these techniques for limiting your results:

  • Use AND with another concept
  • Limit to English
  • Limit by Age, Sex, Human (but remember you will be limiting potential relevant options that include BOTH)
  • Limit to Publication Type (for example: Randomized Controlled Trial or Review)
  • Use Subheadings (for example: Diagnosis or Therapy)
  • Use a more specific term (Femoral Neck Fractures instead of Hip Fractures)
  • Restrict to Major MeSH Topic
  • Choose "Do not include MeSH terms found below this term in the MeSH hierarchy"
  • Use Text Word in Title
  • Limit to Subsets (e.g., Core Clinical Journals)


Not getting enough with your PubMed search?

Try these techniques for increasing your results:

  • Use OR with synonymous/related concepts
  • Include all languages (English abstracts are often available)
  • Remove all Limits
  • Do not restrict to Publication Types
  • Choose All Subheadings
  • Use a broader term (Eye Diseases instead of Retinal Diseases)
  • Do not Restrict to Major MeSH Topic
  • Do not choose "Do not include MeSH terms found below this term in the MeSH hierarchy"
  • Truncate text words (recommend*)
  • Use the "See Related" feature in PubMed