Before searching for literature and particularly for journal articles there are a number of things you need to think about.
First of all which database/s do you need to search to find literature relevant to your question or research area? One of the most important for nursing is CINAHL but there are others you may need to search including Medline. Also if your question has a psychology focus databases such as PsycINFO and PsycARTICLES would be useful.
Then consider what words/phrases you need to search on. Before doing this you need to break down your question into its component parts so you know what the important bits to search on are. See example below where the important bits of the question are in red:
Which is the most clinically effective, preventing the development of pressure sores by patient turning or using specialised beds and mattresses?
You then need to think about the different words and phrases (i.e. synonyms and alternative terms) an author might use to write about a particular topic. So, in the case of pressure sores an author might refer to them with different terms e.g. pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, bedsores etc.
Truncation is another search technique and what it does is pick up the different endings of a particular word stem. For example, by putting an asterisk * at the end of the letters ulcer* the words ulcer, ulcers, ulceration, ulcerative will all be searched on. The asterisk * is the symbol which is most widely used for truncation but it can vary from one database or electronic source to another.
Phrase searching can be another useful technique. This is where you want to pick up words next to each other and not with any other words in between them. For example: "pressure ulcer". On most databases and electronic sources to search for a phrase you use double inverted commas.
To connect the different parts of a search together there are two very important words: AND and OR. These linking words, or to give them their proper term, Boolean Operators allow you to put your search strategy together.
OR is the linking words you need to use for synonyms or alternative terms:
AND is the linking word you need to use to put the different parts of your search together:
Another type of searching to consider, particularly when carrying out more in-depth literature searches for work such as systematic reviews and
for any module where you need to evidence your search strategy is Subject Searching. For more information about this please refer to the two