You can use the search operators AND, OR and NOT to combine search terms. These are the most commonly known and used boolean operators.
The operators AND and NOT limit the number of results from a search. The operator OR does the opposite; it increases the number of results.
To see how this works, take a look at The Boolean machine. Move your cursor over the operators AND, OR and NOT to see how they determine your search.
You can also combine more than two search terms. Use brackets to indicate the priority. For example (Money OR inflation) AND banking.
Database search concepts and Boolean:
Example: I want to search for an essay titled: "Discuss the effect of antioxidants on athletic performance"
I can do an 'Advanced Search' this means there will be a number of concept search boxes available with AND between them
Remember the more concepts we combine the fewer and more specific the search results
Within a concept box we can add different variants of similar words (Synonyms) with OR between them to increase the search results
Assignment search example: Discuss the effects of exercise on psychological stress so the main search concepts are 'exercise and stress'
Sources include Books / Academic Articles/ Statistics and websites
Books can be searched on the TUS Midlands Library OPAC catalogue: The search can be limited to Ebooks or to physical books only using the tick boxes below the advanced search.
The OPAC catalogue record (example) will show the call number of the shelving location of physical books; also books on similar topics can be browsed under the Subject entry on the catalogue record.
e-books are also available on the OPAC search: Just click on the link 'Online access click to view' in your OPAC catalogue search results, this will redirect to the specific e-book record on the E book Central database
One can also check for academic articles on your research topic (as an example if doing an essay on the effect of physical activity on psychological stress, you might use keywords such as, 'exercise and stress' in a database search)
We can use the Discover search on the main library web-page to search for articles.
Note:You will need to login to use this resource.
Just add your search concepts to the Discover search box (Exercise AND stress) and links to academic journal articles will be available in the search results.
The journal articles retrieved may be available directly though our TUS Midlands library databases or by links to free open access articles.
Refining a search result in Discover:
If a lot of results are provided, the concepts can be narrowed: There is a 'Date' and subject limiter on the left,
One can also click on the 'Advanced search' option under the search box once a search is performed in Discovery, also one can 'Select a field' on the drop-down tab on the right of advanced search (example 'Subject terms search'or or 'Abstract ').
One can also change the search keywords, for example using search keywords such as Jogging or running instead of exercise.
Articles can be opened by following the links in Discover to find the full text if available.
Examples of other sources that can also be searched are: Statistics, Information Guides and websites.
Another good source for government sources and reports is Google advanced search as the Domain limiter there will allow any search be limited by national government (gov.ie, gov.uk etc) or education (edu) websites.
Transcript for Database and Keyword Searching: TUS: Midlands
Advanced Searching skills and Search Concepts: using search concepts in a library database
Example topic: “The effect of supplements on sports performance”
At this stage you can add some extra EBSCO databases to allow a cross search by clicking on 'Choose Databases' at the top of the web-page:
For this topic we add: Cinahl, SportsDiscus; Medline (full descriptions of database content are on the library databases page).
Note: It is useful to do a personal sign in to any database. A personal sign-on allows us to save relevant searches and also to have any new results of relevant searches automatically emailed by setting up a search alert.
To save a search or to set up an alert after the personal sign-in on EBSCO, just click on 'Search history' and then click on the relevant search to select it.
Example search; Supplements and Sport performance
Advanced search allows a separate search box for each concept, so synonyms (words that have similar meanings) can be added with OR between them in each search concept box.Examples of synonyms are Supplement or Antioxidant or "nutrition support"
In EBSCO one can also increase the results obtained by clicking on the 'apply related words' box.
Inverted commas indicates a search phase, (e.g. "tennis elbow"); and this means that only that exact phase will be retrieved in a search.
Other options to aid in a search:
Means that the words need to be within a certain number of words to each other to be retrieved.
e.g. Nutrition N4 support; means these words have to be within 4 words of each other in the documents searched
This will search for all possible ending of a word for example Supplement* (so, supplement, supplements, supplementation or any other word with the stem 'supplement'), n* will search for every word that starts with the letter n.
e'g Supplement* with a star * sign will search for supplement or supplements
So our full example search is as follows:
(Supplement or antioxidants or Nutrition N4 Support)
(sports or athletics or "physical activity" or exercise)
(benefit or performance or impact)
N.B. Brackets indicate a separate search box in advanced search.
Result: This gives (at time of search): Search Results: 1 - 10 of 2,654.
Strategies to focus these results
In EBSCO under 'Page options' we can change the results per page to 50
These results are ranked by relevance so more relevant articles will be on top in the results page.
Search Fields: In case of a lot of results, it is also often useful to rerun the search, - change the 'Select a field' opposite the search boxes to Abstract or Subject or even to a 'Title' search). It is also possible to limit your search to a particular journal.
Subject search: A search can be limited by clicking on the specific subject suggestions (on the left of results in EBSCO)
Note: This strategy will increase search specificity but you may also miss out on relevant results.
Search Filters are on the left of the results screen:
Filter by Date; - for example limit results to 'last 5 years'
Filter by Subject: It is possible also to ‘search within a search with a listed option of subject terms’ (on the left of the results page). This can make the results very focused as is is a specific subject search within a search already performed.
NB : One can also filter before a search by using the particular database 'Limiters' under the search boxes (Document type, date, sex etc)
Other strategies include: Examination of keywords and subjects occurring in relevant articles and using these in subsequent searches. (An example for our search, might be a keyphrase, such as "dietary supplement").
Looking at the reference list of very relevant articles, and searching for some of those specific articles. If you find a relevant article in a reference list you can simply enter the article title into Discovery or do a 'Publication search' (for our journal title holdings of that journal) also on the main library web-page.
Google advanced search with domain limiter for government reports; / education reports etc: Google Scholar with cited by links: Library guides: Open Education Resources (OER): Library These tab with additional resource links: Library contacts for specific queries.
Using search aids:
Most databases allow you to use * as a truncation symbol; for example Nurs* will search for all words starting with Nurs, typically Nurse, Nurses, Nursing
Most databases allow the use of ? as a wildcard, for example Wom?n stands for Women or Woman
Most databases allow phrase searching with the use of inverted commas, e.g. "Nutrition support"
Many databases allow proximity searching but the method differs in different databases, e.g, In EBSCO Nutrition N3 Support means that the words need not be in a phrase but need to be within 3 words of each other to be retrieved
Review Articles: When reviewing the literature it can be useful to look at review articles; some databases such as PubMed and PsycINFO allow one to use a search limiter for review articles; alternatively the search term 'Review' can be added as an extra search concept
Citation tracking: Also called Citation analysis, or Cited reference searching, is a way of measuring the relative importance or impact or an author, article, or publication, by counting the number of times that author, article, or publication has been cited by other works. Databases such as PubMed; Scopus and Google Scholar have a 'Cited by' link
Writing a Search Statement: You can use 'Concepts' and Boolean logic to create a Search Statement for your write up, for example a search strategy for the essay topic, 'Supplements are a valuable aid to athletic performance, Discuss?', might be as below
(Antioxidants or supplements or "nutrition support") AND (Sports performance or athletic performance)
Truncation symbols and proximity operators in use for different databases
Click: Collections tab and then on Databases
Main Science databases include the EBSCO databases (CINAHL, Academic Search, SocINDEX, SportDiscus, Medline) and Proquest databases (Health Research premier, PsycArticles, PsycInfo), also, Scopus, Wiley Online, Sage, Taylor & Francis, Oxford Journals Collection, JSTOR, Cambridge Journals Online and Science Direct Database; and free databases such as PubMed and Google Scholar.
OTHER FREE DATABASES
For more free resources, click on the 'Collections' tab and then on the ‘Theses’ link for free resources such as RIAN, Ethos (theses) and LENUS
N.B. 'Discover' on the main library web-page is not a database but a search engine which searches across different databases however the searching principles are the same:
KEYWORD SEARCH: strategies and Hints
• Decide on keywords, which cover all or part of the meaning of your research.
• Initially select 2 or 3 words which together sum up the meaning of the essay (or part) and use these in separate search boxes
• When selecting keywords start simply; use two or three simple keywords or phrases; then you can adjust the search depending on the number of results.
• In EBSCO, Google scholar (best searched on campus as it links to college databases), and in Discover, you can put key phrases in inverted commas such as “student nurse” or “communication barriers”; this will ensure that the phrase, rather than the separate words are searched.
• If you get a lot of results make the search more specific by adding another keyword or by changing the search parameters to TITLE or ABSTRACT.
• After the preliminary search type you should expand your keywords. Eventually, you may have 10 or more different keywords that you can try in a combination of 2 to 3 at a time in the different databases. Remember different keywords will give optimum results in different databases.
• Look at the keywords or subject terms in relevant articles in your results (these are usually listed in the result summaries under the title) and consider adding these to your search keyword list - also you can just click on the title of the article to get a fuller list of keywords used
• In some databases certain SUBJECT searches will be suggested depending on your initial search which can be very helpful. Remember a SUBJECT is what the main topic of an article is, so all the results will be relevant. In EBSCO simply click on the subject thesaurus or Subject Major heading on the left of the main screen
• You may then decide to rerun the search with different keywords or Subject areas
• Also check Discover and Google scholar for the article as these link to other free resources
• For medical / Biological articles also check Pubmed and click on the free full-text limiter – this limiter is on the left of the results screen.
• To look at the full text for any article click on PDF full-text link – you can email articles to your student email from most databases or print or save using the print and save shortcuts.
• You can save results and also set up email subject alerts by setting up a personal login on the library databases
• If you find a very relevant article in any database do check the reference list at the end of the article; you can search for a journal title on the main library page to see if the library holds the journal referenced or if the library has a link to it.
• NOTE: If the journal-title is in abbreviated format simply type the abbreviation into a google search with the word ‘journal’ beside it and the full title will appear
• Pubmed has a ‘Related citation’ link on its searches to help you find similar articles
• Google scholar has a ‘Cited by’ and Cited in’ function which can also be used to find similar material.
Zotero will allow you to organise your references and to download book and article references into your Zotero library as you find them, these can then be added to your word document with a cite as you write plugin
Please note: The newer Mendeley download is called Mendeley Reference Manager; if you download this on a college laptop then download the word plugin through Microsoft Store from this link . To complete the install for the word plugin you will need to login to Office 365, just follow the prompts, and use your college signon.