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Here are some basic search tips that work on virtually every database.
Questions to consider before searching
- What is the most important piece(s) of this search? (i.e. what must be in an article for it to be a relevant search result?)
- Are there any other ways to describe this concept? (identify possibly synonyms and/or subject terms)
- What type of resource is best to answer this question and where should I search first?
Google Scholar search strategies
When searching Google Scholar it is important to use if effectively.
The appendix from the book Googlepedia® by Michael Miller, 3rd ed, 2008
has some excellent tips.
Here are some basic search tips to target better articles:
Are any of your results relevant? Refining your Search
If yes, look for clues to help continue your search:
- Are there subjects assigned that look helpful? Try searching them.
- Consider "find similar" suggestions if available.
If no, did you find too many results? Too few?
- Re-examine your question/topic - is it too specific? Too broad?
- Think about the search terms that you are using - consider subject terms or different synonyms
- Think about the database(s) that you are using
- Consult a colleague and/or librarian for suggestions about terms and databases to try - we all have different biases and experiences to draw on, might need a new perspective
- Consider the fact that the evidence might not exist!
Doesn’t exist is a hard concept to grasp in this age of technology! It might also mean that it is not available in the places/resources you are searching (Proprietary, not well funded research topic, positive publication bias, etc.)
Strategies to Expand Your Search
This handout includes strategies including checking references, checking point of care tools, cited reference searching, and PubMed's similar articles feature.
PubMed For Nurses Tutorial
The PubMed for Nurses Online Training is a 30 minute self guided tutorial that is targeted toward nurses but is helpful for anyone who would like to learn about literature searching in Pubmed. This tutorial includes modules on simple searching, using filters, using PubMed Clinical Queries, and My NCBI.