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Advanced Health Sciences Research: Advanced Search Strategies

This guide is designed to assist Nursing and Health Sciences students with research projects.

Boolean Operators

Use boolean operators to make your search the most effective.

AND finds records with all of your terms/keywords and narrows your search.

OR finds records with any of the terms and broadens your search.

Truncation finds records with a term's various endings (ie. nurs* = nurse, nursing, nursed, nurses, nursing's).

Note: Our book catalogue uses $ as the truncation symbol, all other databases use *. If you are uncertain of the truncation symbol in any database, check the Help button and look for "Truncation".

Fixing Search Problems

Zero Results

  • first check your spelling :). And don't forget that British (paediatric) and American (maternal labor) spelling might effect your search results
  • try using a term that might be more inclusive. For example, if your search yields no results for achondroplasia, then try dwarfism, or even try musculoskeletal then AND this term with disorder* OR disease*.


Too Few Results

  • use truncation and OR (ie. baby OR babies OR infant* OR toddler*), (heart OR cardiac) to expand the results
  • find a CINAHL Heading subject and click the Explode box to find all articles indexed with terms relating to your heading
  • search for articles listed in the bibliographies at the end of relevant articles that you do find
  • perform an Author field search for the names of relevant authors who are listed in these bibliographies
  • if you know a specific author, or journal title, or article title that is relevant to your topic, do a Cited Reference search in CINAHL to see all the articles that have referenced these.
  • click on Find Similar Results (Ebsco databases) or See similar documents (Proquest) from the full record page of a relevant article
  • try Cited References (CINAHL) on the search results page or References (Proquest) on the fulltext page for more relevant articles
  • try the Social Sciences grouping of databases if your topic is geared to social, psychological, or family issues


Non-relevant Results

  • use proper subject headings. For example, CINAHL uses Psychiatric Nursing rather than Mental Health Nursing
  • find a relevant article in your list of results, and use its proper subject headings to redo your search
  • try the Social Sciences grouping of databases if your topic is geared to social, psychological, or family issues


Too Many Results

  • if your search yields too many results (ie. diabetes), use AND to make it more specific (ie. diabetes AND therapy AND adult)
  • search for your terms in the Title field (from the pull-down menu in the "field" search box)
  • use database-specific proper Subject headings/terms
  • in CINAHL try specific Subheadings (by checking the box beside the blue hot-linked subject term, appearing after you have done a CINAHL Headings search)
  • find a CINAHL Heading subject and click the Major Concept box to see articles that emphasize your specific subject
  • use more limiters (ie. date range, publication type, special interest groupings, document type, journal title etc.)


    Subject Guide

    Fiona Inglis's picture
    Fiona Inglis