Planning your search
This section of the guide will cover:
If you are unsure what Boolean operators are, this video (from LTHTR Blended Learning) covers the basics.
The Using operators in your search tutorial, from The University Manchester, goes through Boolean operators in more detail, with examples and activities to test your knowledge.
Guidance on how to use the Boolean operators with a health search example is covered in this short video:
For more information on how to use Boolean operators in a search in CINAHL see the Searching CINAHL page.
Before you start to do any research it is important to think about your topic. This could be a question or it could be a research area. Then, you need to think about how this question or topic will fit into a search strategy and this involves thinking about the main keywords you are interested in.
The next step is to think about those main keywords in more detail. Think ... are there other ways to say them (synonyms)? For the best results you need to identify as many synonyms for each concept. There might be lots of other ways to say your keywords or there may only be one way. Don't forget about alternative spellings (UK/US) and abbreviations.
Sometimes it can be difficult to think of alternative keywords for your topic. If you struggle to identify additional keywords for your search terms you could:
Finding the most effective keywords for your search usually involves some trial and error. However, you can continue to add to your list of keywords as you find out more about your topic.
There are a number of advanced searching techniques you can use to improve the thoroughness of your searches.
The symbols used for these advanced searching techniques may change depending on which database you are searching in so make sure to check the help button next to the database name for more information on which symbols to use in that database: https://libguides.tees.ac.uk/az.php?
The main advanced searching techniques used are: truncation and phrase searching.
Truncation is also known as “stemming”. You can use it to search for a term and variant spellings of that term, by substituting the letters at the end of the word for an asterisk (*). Your search then finds every word that begins with the letters you have entered. For example, handwash* will retrieve handwash, handwashing.
You can use double speech marks ("") when you want to find an exact phrase, for example, "healthcare workers”. This will find only documents where those words appear next to each other and in the same order.
You can also use truncation and phrase searching together. This can be useful when you want to use phrase searching but still pick up the various endings, including plurals.
As only the exact phrase is searched for, a search for “Health care worker” would not find the plural health care workers. To overcome this issue, you could use truncation within your phrase, “health care worker*”.
Also a search for “hand wash*” would keep your two keywords together, in the same order, as well as finding hand washing.
Guidance on how to use advanced searching techniques with a health search example is covered in this short video:
For more information on how to use advanced searching techniques in a search in CINAHL see the Searching CINAHL page.
For Evidence Based Practice (EBP) searches, you will often be expected to break down your question into its key concepts using an EBP formula such as PICO, PIO and PEO. If you are unsure what PICO/PIO/PEO is, this written guide explains it in more detail and includes some example questions, question structures and search strategies.
The Creating a PICO Scenario tutorial, from The University of York, also explains the PICO formula and has some examples and activities to test your knowledge.
It is important to plan a search strategy before beginning your research. This will help you decide what you want to find and will save you time in the future. The written guidance and video tutorial below explain how to do this in a structured way.
|Written Guidance||Video Tutorial|
As part of the standard childhood immunisation schedule, Sarah has been asked to bring her 13 month old daughter into her local doctor's surgery for the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccination. Sarah has carried out some online research about the MMR vaccine and is worried that it can lead to an increased risk of autism. During her consultation with the GP, she asks why her healthy child should be put at risk, especially as “measles is a minor illness."
After reading the scenario which of the following do you think are the main keywords or concepts? Which are the ones you would choose when searching in an online database? Click the boxes to see what we thought.
So far we have identified the key concepts from the scenario, which framework it fits into and which components fit where. Next we need to put it into a research or clinical question. What do you think you could use for this scenario? See the written guidance and read our example below.
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