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Effective search skills

Key techniques to get the best out of databases

Paula Funnell

on 21 June 2017

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Transcript of Effective search skills

Effective search skills
Effective preparation
Develop an effective search strategy:

Identify the important concepts of your search question
Choose keywords for each component
Search for each component separately then combine the results

Identifying key components
Break your search down into the main concepts

e.g. What is the incidence of peritonitis in patients following minimally invasive abdominal surgery?
Minimally Invasive Surgery

e.g. Assess the erosional impacts of rainforest logging in Borneo
Rainforest logging

Choosing search terms
Think of any synonyms, acronyms, alternative spellings or related terms for your keywords.
Law or legislation
Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT
Audio-visual or audiovisual

Look at any articles that you know are relevant to the topic:
What language do they use to describe their research?
Do they give their search strategy? If so, what terms did they use?
Add an asterisk to the stem of a word to search for all possible word endings

Educat* searches education, educator, educational

Behavi* finds behavior, behaviour, behaving
Phrase searching
Use quotation marks to search for words appearing as a phrase:
“Diabetes Mellitus” searches for both words appearing together
“First World War” searches for the words appearing together in that order
Controlled vocabulary
Subject Headings & Thesaurus Terms
Fixed set of terms assigned to define the main focus of an article
Thesaurus searching facilitates mapping to broader or narrower terms
Some databases allow you to “explode” to include narrower terms

Some databases will automatically search for an appropriate subject heading

In other databases you need to search separately

Combining your components
Watch this cartoon to find out more about using Boolean operators

An example search
Searching for journal articles about a vaccine for bird flu

Too many results?
Limits allow you to refine your search by
Date Range
Publication type
and much more ...

Bring in a new component to narrow your search down
Too few results?
Check your spelling
Add more synonyms to your search
Remove your limits

Managing your results
All databases allow you to
Create an account where you can save your searches to re-run later
Email your search results to yourself
Add your searches to reference management software like EndNote

Contact your liaison librarian for advice on effective searching

Getting help
Full transcript