Search Terms

When searching databases, you will need to determine which keywords to include in your search to help find relevant information. When it comes to keywords, simple is best. Search like a neanderthal and not like a novelist. Select one keyword to describe the most important parts of your patient/problem and intervention.

Keyword selection is a skill that takes practice and repetition to develop. Be flexible and gentle with yourself – you may need to try a few different times to get it right!

Example: Is vitamin c an effective treatment for the common cold?

Step 1 – Remove natural language and common words:

If we remove words like is, an, and the, we are left with: Is vitamin c an effective treatment for the common cold?

Step 2 – Remove unnecessary words

Databases are not very good at reading your mind – they will search for all words you enter. Think of what words might be unnecessary and narrow your search down too much. For example, effective treatment can be left out of your search, because any article that discusses vitamin c and the common cold will almost certainly be about using vitamin c as a treatment or prevention. Additionally, we can eliminate common – if we include “common” in our search, we will be excluding any articles that use cold instead of common cold.

If we remove words like is, an, and the, we are left with: Is vitamin c an effective treatment for the common cold?

Step 3 – Add/remove search terms as needed to narrow results

Take a look at your search results and add or remove concepts as needed. Getting too many results? Add another concept to narrow your search. Not getting enough results? Remove a concept that may be eliminating too many results.

Step 4 – Try different keywords and combinations

Reassess! Be flexible and try different synonyms or combinations of keywords to see what works and what doesn’t.

License

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Evidence-Based Practice by Various Authors - See Each Chapter Attribution is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.