It is important to make general ideas and topics into concise questions before you begin your search. This helps keep you focused on your precise topic when searching. Your question should have between two and four main concepts; with any more than that you should consider creating two or more questions. The PICO, SPIDER, SPICE, and ECLIPSE tools (see table below) make it easy to identify the concepts in your search.
Is kineso tape more effective than ibuprofen in relieving back pain during athletic events?
Are surveys effective in finding out if wheelchair users are satisfied with classes on how to use a wheelchair in winter conditions?
Do people, in an outpatient setting, who take classes on how to lower cholesterol see their cholesterol level go down more than those who do not take the class?
Are allied health students who receive test and essay scores within 14 days of submission more confident of their progress in their education?
When searching you sometimes need to think of synonyms for a concept in order to capture all the information on that concept. For example, to capture all the information on heart attacks you would search:
Do not overdo it when it comes to synonyms: only use the most logical and do not include broader concept terms.
AND is used when you want the results to contain all of the concepts important to your research. For example, to capture information on the use of exercise by an elderly population as part of a fall prevention program, you could search:
Be careful of having too many concepts, because you may end up with zero results.
NOT tells the database to ignore concepts that may be implied from your search terms. For example, if you were searching for articles on nursing and education but you did not want articles on breastfeeding, you might search:
Be careful about using NOT as you may inadvertently exclude helpful articles from your search that just happen to mention a term.
|Concept 1||Concept 2||Concept 3|
terms and phrases that reflect concept 1
terms and phrases that reflect concept 2
terms and phrases that reflect concept 3
Example: Is constraint induced movement therapy effective for stroke patients?
|Concept 1||Boolean||Concept 2|
cerebral vascular accident
constraint induced movement therapy
Using parentheses the search would look like this:
(stroke OR cerebrovascular accident OR cerebral vascular accident OR CVA) AND (constraint induced movement therapy OR CIMT)
Example of a CINAHL record with common fields highlighted
Limiting your search to specific fields in a database can yield more precise results:
Warning: when using truncation make sure to use enough of the root word to express your idea; use too little and you will get bad results.
Search interfaces differ from database to database, so it's often helpful to look at the help documentation for the specific database you're interested in using. Here are some helpful guides by database: