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Evidence-based Practice

Additional Searching Tips

On this page, we will review different techniques to narrow or broaden your library database search results when trying to find sources.

Using Quotation Marks

When searching using keywords or natural language, use "quotation marks" around two or more word phrases or concepts that generally appear together.

  • For example, "United States" or "Valencia College".

  • The search "Valencia College" with quotations marks will exclude searches such as Valencia, Spain or colleges in Valencia, California.

If the search has no results, you should check for spelling errors or reduce the number of words between the quotation marks.

Using Wild Cards (also known as Truncation)

Wildcards such as an asterisk (*) or question mark (?) are used to replace a part of a word.

Wildcards search keywords with multiple variations in word endings or spelling.

  • For example, nurs* will provide results related to nursenursesnursed, and nursing. This allows you to find results for all four concepts in one single search.
  • While the question mark (?) wildcard in the search gr?y will provide results for gray and grey.

AND, OR, NOT (Boolean operators)

Databases use terms such as AND, OR, NOT (also known as Boolean operators) to combine keywords to either broaden or narrow search results.

  • A general search using asthma will result in many results.

  • Using AND narrows search results. If I search for asthma AND air pollution, my results will be narrowed to include both concepts.

  • Using OR expands search results. If I search for air pollution OR air pollutants OR air quality, my results will be broadened to include results on air pollutionair pollutants, air quality, and all three.

  • Using NOT narrows search results by eliminating items from the search results. If I exclude rural from my search, my results will omit all results that mention this keyword. However, excluding this rural can also exclude results that mention both rural and urban.

Review the video below about using and combing Boolean operators.

Combining Search Tips

CINAHL Subject Headings or MeSH, quotation marks, wild cards, or Boolean operators can be combined in a search.

Example 1: Using CINAHL Subject Headings, AND, and OR
  • I could use the CINAHL Subject Headings asthma, occupational. In the first line of the database, I can type asthma, occupational, and then from the drop-down select SU (Subject heading). (In MEDLINE, I could type the MeSH asthma, occupational in the first search line and then from the drop-down select MH (medical heading).)

    • Tip: Because MeSH or Subject Headings are specific to each database, they should be searched separately from keywords. Two similar MeSH or Subject Headings can be combined on the same line using OR.

  • Between both boxes keep AND

  • In the second box, I can type air pollution OR air pollutants OR air quality.

CINAHL Subject heading search

Example 2: CINAHL Subject Headings, AND, OR, and Wild Card
  • I could use the CINAHL Subject Headings asthma, occupational. In the first line of the database, I can type asthma, occupational, and then from the drop-down select SU (Subject heading). (In MEDLINE, I could type the MeSH asthma, occupational in the first search line and then from the drop-down select MH (medical heading).)

    • Tip: Because MeSH or Subject Headings are specific to each database, they should be searched separately from keywords. Two similar MeSH or Subject Headings can be combined on the same line using OR.

  • In the second box, I can type air pollut* OR air quality.

CINAHL search heading example

 

Next: Review Step 4 Appraise the Evidence
The Valencia College libraries do not welcome solicitation of resources to be added to our LibGuides. This includes but is not limited to vendors, search engine optimizers, placement of ads, products, or any other requests. Our LibGuides are carefully curated resources developed in partnership with faculty, staff, and students to support specific assignments, courses, events, and other related purposes at Valencia College. The Valencia libraries reserve the right to ignore LibGuide resource solicitations, and/or block persistent requests from groups or individuals to add or promote links in our LibGuides.