When you have a question or topic you want to find relevant journal literature on you will need to look at relevant databases which cover journal literature. Click on the Subject Resources tab to see the range of databases we have access to.
To search these databases effectively there are a number of search techniques you need to consider, including the use of synonyms and alternative terms, truncation, phrase searching and linking the search together with the appropriate boolean operator/s. Also do you need to use a search history?
For more information on these techniques please see below.
Some databases also allow you to search what are called Subject Headings.
A good way to explain Subject Headings is as tags. It has been somebody's job to read the articles added to the database and to apply tags to tell the user/researcher what the article is about i.e. the context of the article. Two of the main health databases the library subscribes to which have such subject headings are CINAHL and Medline. On CINAHL they are called CINAHL Headings and on Medline they are called MESH Headings.
An example will better explain how searching such Subject Headings can be valuable. Imagine you are looking for literature on the condition of stroke. By searching on the word stroke as a keyword results could be picked up which had nothing to do with the condition e.g. golf stroke, tennis stroke, stroke a dog, whereas if there was a subject heading for the condition of stroke such results would not be picked up.
Further information on literature searching can be found in the guides below
To link a search strategy together there are two important words you need to use: AND and OR.
These words are called Boolean operators. Another less frequently used Boolean operator and one which needs to be used with caution is NOT. This is used if you want to exclude a word/s from a search. For example, if you only wanted results which included adults you could say Not (children or paediatric or pediatric OR infant)
You use AND when you want words to appear together. For example, you are interesting in the effect of diet on stroke risk. By using the Word AND between stroke and diet you will only find results where both of those words appear together.
When there are different words which can be used for the same thing e.g. stroke, cerebrovascular accident i.e synonyms, or you are interested in one thing or another you link the words together with the Boolean operator OR
One very useful technique that can be used on many databases is called truncation. This is where you can find variant endings of a word stem. For example, therap* will find therapy, therapies, therapist, therapists, therapeutic.
The truncation symbol used on most databases is an asterisk *
If you have words that you want to search next to each other i.e. a phrase on many databases you can enclose the words in double quotation marks e.g. "diet therapy"