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NS 610: Advanced Nursing Roles and Reflective Practice -- Roney & Phillips: Search strategies

Tips for Searching

The large number of citations in many catalogs and databases requires one to limit otherwise broad or general searches in order to retrieve a manageable and pertinent number of results.  Conversely, overly narrow search terms can return too few results.  One way of solving both problems is to use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), which allow one to limit or expand searches depending on his or her needs.


For example, a search for nursing AND patient safety will return items that contain both "nursing" and "patient safety":


nursing OR patient safety returns items that contain either "nursing" or "patient safety" or both:

nursing NOT patient safety returns items that contain "nursing" but not "patient safety":

Phrase searching:

An important strategy for one to employ when researching phrasal concepts (e.g., "European Union") or conducting known-item searches for titles:

For example, patient safety will search for patient AND safety.

However, "patient safety" in quotation marks will search for this as a phrase and try to find relevant resources with those words all together.


Nested Searching:

When pairing two or more keywords with another keyword, it is helpful to "nest" the former terms within a larger Boolean search.

For example, (nursing OR hospitals) AND patient safety will return results for patient safety and any one (or both) of the parenthetical terms. 

(Many catalogs or databases will have an "advanced search" option, which provides multiple search bars to facilitate nested searching.)


Truncation and Wildcards:

Most catalogs and databases enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols.

For example, one could search for nurs* to find nurse, nurses, and nursing.

Wildcard searching works similarly: a search for t??th will return results for teeth, tooth, tenth, and so on.

Tracing Citations

Researchers can often find useful scholarship by identifying one particularly relevant text and seeing which sources that text cites. 

With print texts, this process might involve checking the bibliography.  In some databases, you can also trace citations forward in time and find subsequent material that cites a particularly useful resource.  Use the databases listed on the "Finding Peer-Reviewed Articles" tab to find a relevant resource and then paste the title of that text into Google Scholar to see more recent texts that cite your original source. 

Keep in mind that Google Scholar contains much peer-reviewed literature, but also includes sources that do not qualify as peer-reviewed (for example, master's theses).  Be sure to double-check the source to ensure that it's peer-reviewed before using it in your essay.