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Master of Science in Nursing: Leadership and Administration in Nursing: Search Tips

Advanced Searching

"Quotation Marks"

Be sure to put quotation marks around phrases. The quotation marks force the search engine to locate articles that include the series of words together. If quotation marks are not applied, the search engine will return articles that contain the words in the phrase but not necessarily the phrase itself.

Example:"Social Studies" - the database will search for articles containing the phrase "social studies" 

social studies (no quotation marks) - the database will search for articles containing the word "social" and the word "studies", not the phrase "social studies" 



Sometimes simply titled "Subject Terms", the thesaurus allows users to search the subject terms that have been established by the database provider. If you're having trouble getting expected results from a search you may simply be using a term or phrase that is not recognized as a subject term by the database. In order to find the appropriate subject term select the Thesaurus or Subject Terms tab, type in the term or phrase you have been using, select the "Relevancy Ranked" button, and click on "Browse". The results will be the database's selected subject terms similar to what you are searching.

For example: "English as a second language" is not a subject term used in Academic search complete. Rather, if I want to search that topic within this database I should use "ENGLISH language - Study & Teaching - Foreign Speakers", as indicated by the Subject Term browse.


Wildcard Searching

Wildcards are applied when an asterisk (*) is added at the end of the term or when a letter is replaced with a question mark (?) within a word.

The asterisk (*) truncates the term and commands the database to search for the term with any possible ending.

Example: environment* = environment, environments, environmental, environmentally, environmentalist, environmentalists, etc.

Replacing a letter within a term with a question mark (?) will allow the database to search for any form of the term.

Example: wom?n = women, woman


Boolean Searching

Boolean modifiers, "and", "or", and "not", allow users to create a more precise search by engaging multiple search terms and functions within a single search. Each Boolean modifier, however, serves a slightly different purpose. Continue reading below for a brief explanation of each.


Using "and" as a boolean modifier will command the database to search for articles that contain BOTH of the search terms.


Using "or" as a Boolean modifier will command the database to search for articles that contain EITHER of the search terms.


Using "not" as a Boolean modifier will command the database to search for articles that contain one search term but EXCLUDE the other, including articles that contain both.


Proximity Searching

Proximity Searching allows for articles with two or more terms or phrases in certain proximity to each other to be identified.

There are two types of proximity searches: Near, operational when placing an N and a number between the search terms or phrases, and Within, operational when placing a W and a number between the search terms or phrases. The number is used to indicate the maximum number of words between the two search terms or phrases. 


Dogs N5 Cats

This will search for articles with the terms "dogs" and "cats" within 5 words of each other, REGARDLESS OF ORDER.


Dog W5 Cats

This will search for articles in which the the term "cats" FOLLOWS the term "dogs" within 5 words. This operation will only search for the terms or phrases IN THE ORDER they are presented in the search.