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CDIS 5362: Introduction to Research in Communication Disorders: Search Strategies

Boolean Operators in Action: AND

Boolean Operators in Action: OR

Boolean Operators in Action: NOT

Proximity Searching

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

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

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


Dog W5 Cats

Searches for articles in which the the term "cats" FOLLOWS the term "dogs" within 5 words. Only searches for the terms or phrases IN THE ORDER they are presented in the search.  

Truncation Searching

Truncation is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.

  • To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol at the end.
  • The database will return results that include any ending of that root word.
  • Examples:
    child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood
    genetic* = genetic, genetics, genetically
  • Truncation symbols may vary by database; common symbols include: *, !, ?, or #

Wildcard Searching

Wildcard searches allow the database to replace the wildcard symbol with any letters that would make up a real word. It's like a shorthand way of typing every possible word that fits the pattern with OR in between.
Symbol What it does Sample search Instead of typing
* replaces zero or more letters at the end of a word
(this is truncation)
comput* computer OR computing OR computational OR...
# replaces at most one letter ne#t net OR neat OR next OR nest OR...
? replaces only one letter b?t bat OR bet OR bit OR bot OR but OR...

REMEMBER: Some databases may use these symbols differently or may use different symbols, so check the database's help section if you're having problems with wildcards.

Phrase Searching

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. Conduct a search using keywords. Identify relevant results.  
  2. Figure out the terms that the database uses for your concepts by seeing the subject headings or MeSH terms found in records of relevant results and also listed under Refine Results (EBSCO databases).
  3. Conduct a second search using subject headings. Searching with subject headings can retrieve even more relevant results.

If a database has a thesaurus (CINAHL has CINAHL Headings), you can browse it for subject headings, see the scope note or definition of a subject heading, and see related terms that you might use. 

Search Tips:

  • Keep track of the terms you've searched to avoid repeating searches.
  • 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.