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Nursing Concepts III - NURS 2400

Searching the Databases

Medical databases have hundreds of specialized topics, and thousands of articles on any given topic. Because of this, you will need to use different search strategies to find the most relevant research for your class assignments.

Learn about the different strategies below for searching the SOWELA Library's medical databases.


Only use the most relevant keywords to search the database based on your research question. Also search for synonyms of your keywords.


Research Question:   What are the effects of stress on preterm births?

Keywords:                  stress, preterm

Synonyms:                 anxiety, premature, labor, delivery

Advanced Database Search Tips

Using "AND," "OR," and "NOT" can help you can combine your keywords in different ways to more effectively search the library databases. These are known as Boolean operators.

Click on the tabs above to learn about how to use each of these operators.

Using AND requires that results must have overlap of all keywords.


     AND: all of the keywords must be in each search result.

     Using AND places a higher set of criteria on your search, and will return fewer results.

     In this example, searching for "stroke AND paralysis" will only give you results that have both
     keywords. You will not be shown articles that have only one of the keywords.


"Venn Diagram for Boolean Operator AND" by ramaxeymiles is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Using OR will give you search results with one or only some of your keywords.


     OR: search results can have some or all of the keywords.

     Using OR gives the database more options providing you with more results.

     In this example, searching for "stroke OR brain infarction OR ischemia" will only give you results
     that have one, two, or all three of the keywords.


"Venn Diagram for Boolean Operator OR" by ramaxeymiles is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Using NOT elimates all results that follow the word "not."


     NOT: eliminates search results the contain the keyword after "not."

     Using NOT restricts the results by disqualifying database articles with certain keywords.

     In this example, searching for "ischemic stroke NOT hemorrhagic stroke" eliminate any search
     results that have the phrase "hemorrhagic stroke."


"Venn diagram for Boolean Operator NOT" by ramaxeymiles is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

MeSH Terms

Many medical databases group their articles under different topics called medical subject headings (MeSH). You can use these MeSH terms to focus your search on the exact topics you need. The databases will also help you discover the MeSH term you need to use.

Advantages: Use the database’s vocabulary for more accurate search results.

Disadvantage: Subject headings are not available for all topics, such as specific cases or newer conditions and treatments.

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