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Biomedical Sciences

Refining Your Search

Use boolean operators to make your search more effective.

Quotation marks find phrases instead of individual words ("social media").

AND finds records with all of your terms/keywords and narrows your search ("media streaming" AND covid-19).

OR finds records with any of the terms and broadens your search (youth OR teen OR adolescent).

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

Navigating Common Search Obstacles

Zero Results

  • first check your spelling :). And don't forget that British (labour) and American (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 "quadriceps tendinopathy, then try tendinopathy. You could use the OR operator to also. This example could look something like: "quadriceps tendinopathy" OR tendinopathy OR tendinitis. Alternatively, you could use truncation and try tendin* as well

Too Few Results

  • Revise your research question and check it is not too specific
  • Expand your search by using truncation and OR to add synonyms for your search terms (ie. baby OR babies OR infant* OR toddler*), (heart OR cardiac) 
  • Include different spellings (paediatric, pediatric) and both scientific and popular names (cannabis, marijuana)
  • Search using both subject headings and keywords
  • 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
  • click on Find Similar Results (Ebsco databases) or Find more documents like this (Proquest) from the full record page of a relevant article

Too Many Results

  • You may have to revise your research question to make it more specific, for example add a setting or population
  • if your search yields too many results (ie. diabetes), use AND to make it more specific (ie. diabetes AND therapy AND adult), or use "quotation marks" to search for phrases
  • search for your terms in the Title field (from the pull-down menu on the search box)
  • use database-specific proper Subject headings
  • use more limiters (ie. date range, publication type, special interest groupings, document type, journal title, etc.

Non-relevant Results

  • use proper subject headings. For example, instead of streaming, try "streaming media" or "streaming services"
  • find a relevant article in your list of results, and use its proper subject headings to redo your search
  • use the Subject limiter to focus on particular subjects of study

I've got three great articles, but nothing else!

  • Continue building on your search
  • Turn to subject specific databases or Google Scholar to find cited by and related articles
  • Check the reference lists of your great articles for other relevant articles
  • Check the subject headings on your great articles and search using them