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Master of Science in Nursing: Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: Search Strategies

Searching Databases using a PICO Question

Getting Started with Searching

There are many different ways to search for information in databases.

Here is one way to get you started with searching:

  1. Identify main concepts for your topic.
  2. Enter the search terms along with Database Commands into the search box. 
  3. Identify relevant results.  
  4. Email or export relevant articles.

Search Tips:

  • Keep track of the terms you've searched to avoid repeating searches.
  • Look up subject or Mesh terms for your search terms and use those as keywords.
  • Consider using a citation manager, such as Refworks, to export citations of relevant results along the way. 

Need help with searching? Ask a librarian for help.

SYR versus Databases

What is the difference between searching Start Your Research versus a subject Database?

  • Start Your Research
    • Searches just about everything the library owns
      • Books, Ebooks, Subject Databases (medical, literature, social science etc...), Streaming Video, etc...
    • Your results list will contain a lot of irrelevant sources
  • Databases
    • Searches fewer resources such as journals, magazines, and newspapers in a specific discipline like Nursing
    • Your results list will contain more relevant sources





Five Database Search Commands
Phrase Searching:  Quotations are placed around a phrase. Phrase Searching Example:  "inhaled corticosteroid" returns articles containing the exact phrase in the order it is typed.
Add concepts to your search string using the Boolean operator AND. Boolean Operator AND Example:  "pediatric patient" AND asthma returns articles discussing both concepts.
Add alternate concepts to your search string using the Boolean operator OR. Boolean Operator OR Example:  "physical activity" OR "physical exercise" returns articles that only mention physical activity or articles that only mention physical exercise.
Truncation:  An asterisk truncates the term and commands the database to search for the term with any possible ending. Truncation Example:  medicat* returns articles containing medication, medicate, medicating
Wildcard:  A letter is replaced with a question mark (?) within a word.

Wildcard Example: 

wom?n returns articles containing woman, women


Finding Specific Articles or Journals

If you come across a citation to an article and you'd like to track down its full text, here are a couple of options:

"qualitative study of determinants of ptsd treatment initiation"

Steps for using Periodical List to find journal coverage.