In Google you can type in, "What's the weather like in New York City this weekend?" and receive the answer. In library databases, you need to boil down your inquiry to the nouns and noun phrases that capture your concepts, like New York City AND weekend AND weather
For example, if you are doing research within a database (perhaps CINAHL) on patient care in nursing homes and the long-term affects of poor care on the residents, you do not want to type in that ENTIRE sentence. Really you are looking for the meat of your sandwich: nursing homes AND patient care AND elderly
Once you have the meat, you can then start to put together a search strategy as shown below. You should consider using synonyms as well. Perhaps other authors refer to dogs as canines in their article or specifically the breed German Shepherd. You want to make sure you get ALL of the relevant possibilities for your research. The following pro tips will help you do this.
These three words (also known as 'Boolean operators') -- AND, OR, NOT -- perform a special function in library databases when used in a search statement and will help you either broaden your search results or narrow the results, depending on what you need. This graphic shows how they work:
Using the Boolean operators AND and OR from the previous nursing example, my search might look something like this:
Nursing Home AND (Patient Care OR Long-term Care) AND (Elderly OR Aged OR Geriatric):
Another way to make your search results more relevant is to apply database filters on the results page. For example, the CINAHL database (in EBSCOhost) has filters for age, inpatient or outpatient, male or female, and so on, that can be applied to your results. These filters are viewable in the EBSCO databases by clicking on the link to Show More, under the date slider bar:
Usually you'll select Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals and English Language:
Consider using limiters to replace some search terms. For example, rather than type in all the search terms for Elderly, you can apply the Age Groups limiter to your search results:
You can always see what terms you've used and what limiters have been applied under Current Search. And you can always remove them if they are too limiting:
Searching for articles is not always easy, but there are tricks that will help you navigate and find more relevant materials to your needs.
To help you think through this process of building a good search, here's a little tool that can help you construct effective searches for Search Everything, many article databases, PILOT (the catalog) and more. Developed by Ohio State University, it's called Search Strategy Builder.
Just click on the link, fill in the blanks, and click the button to create a Search Statement. You can then copy and paste that statement into the database of your choice.
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