These core concepts & tutorials for searching databases will help you when searching for literature.
Boolean operators form the basis of database logic.
AND tells a database that ALL search terms must be present in the results. Therefore, it narrows your results. An example would be artificial intelligence AND medicine AND ethics.
Be aware that in some databases and search engines the AND is implied. Google Scholar automatically ANDs your search terms.
OR connects two or more similar concepts, usually synonyms, and therefore broadens your search results. OR tells a database that ANY of your search terms can be present in your search results.
So if you were to search artificial intelligence OR medicine OR ethics, you would receive results on just artificial intelligence, medicine, or ethics. You may also receive results that are about all three concepts.
Truncation will broaden your search because it includes various word endings and spellings. When consider truncation look for:
Wildcards are similar to truncation, but wildcards substitute a symbol for one letter of a word. Example: wom!m = women, woman
|Are words used in natural language and describe your topic.||Are a predefined controlled vocabulary. They are used to describe individual content in a database.|
|Are more flexible and can be combine together in many ways.||Are less flexible to search by; you must know the exact term used to describe your topic.|
|Databases look for keywords anywhere in the record. Unlike subject terms.||Databases use subject headings to search subject heading or descriptor fields. In theory, if you find the exact Subject Heading that describes your topic everything cataloged in the database should appear when searching that term.|
|Keywords may yield too many or too few results.||If there are too many results, you can use subheadings to focus your search.|
|Keywords may yield many irrelevant results.||Subject Heading results usually are relevant to the search topic.|
MeSH is the acronym for "Medical Subject Headings." MeSH is the authority list of the vocabulary terms used for subject analysis of biomedical literature at NLM. The MeSH controlled vocabulary is a distinctive feature of MEDLINE. It imposes uniformity and consistency to the indexing of biomedical literature.
MeSH clarifies and broadens. You can search for MeSH terms using the main search box on PubMed. Select MeSH from the drop down.
The MeSH database always provides a definition of the term. When searching for a MeSH term, you should always ensure that the MeSH definition of the term aligns with your search strategy. In addition, you can view any subject headings associated with the MeSH term. This is the entry in the MeSH database for the term Diabetes Insipidus.
Once you find the correct term in MeSH, you can select that term by using the search box found at the right side of the page. Once you have chosen the term you wish to search, click add to search builder to place the term in the Search Builder box. Click the Search PubMed button when you are ready to search.
Library databases organize resources using records, and records use fields that contain specific pieces of bibliographic information. Common fields include:
You can use fields to:
Different databases interpret searches differently. Phrases are a common variation among databases.
Most databases allow you to specify that adjacent words be searched as phrases. To search a phrase:
Stop words frequently occur and are often insignificant within the database records. Common stop words are:
Most databases ignore stop words. The best practice is not to use stop words in your search strategy. Instead, use keywords and field searches to eliminate the need for stop words.
Selecting Search Terms is a quick video that can help you understand which terms will best help you find resources related to your chosen topic.