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As TWU students in the field of health science, your work will need to be based upon solid research:
Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is an approach to medical practice intended to optimize decision making by emphasizing the use of evidence from well-designed and well-conducted research.
As future professions, you will be required to continue your professional development:
“One of the responsibilities of any professional is to maintain expertise, and this responsibility is probably nowhere more critical, or more difficult, than in the profession of medicine"
(Laine & Weinberg, 1999)
“In 1980, the biomedical literature was estimated to be expanding at a compound rate of 6% - 7% per annum, doubling every 10 to 12 years. based on an estimated rate of 200,000 biomedical publications per annum in 1979, it was determined that if clinicians read two articles per day every day for a year, by the end of the year they would be 55 centuries behind”
(Cook et al., 1996)
Therefore, as you will be stuck looking for articles anyway--learning how to search effectively now--will save you a lot of work later.
Subject headings A subject heading search, also known as a controlled vocabulary search, will search for articles on a given subject rather than by looking for keywords within the text, i.e. an article will be tagged and indexed in a database as being about certain subjects. It is these subjects that are searched for.
Not all databases use the same subject heading catalog:
Keyword searches will look through the text of an article for whatever word/s you have specified.
There are three Boolean operators: AND, OR, & NOT.
The AND Boolean operator will reduce the amount of results a search yields as it forces the database to be more specific. For example, here the database will only return results that feature both the terms "peanut butter" AND jelly.
TIP* If you have too many results to wade through...try using an additional search concept with AND to get a smaller, more specific, batch of results.
OR is used to adding synonyms or alternate words to your search. By adding more synonyms to each concept you should get more results. A good rule of thumb is that OR is always more.
Here you can see that the database will bring back all articles that have either the phrase "peanut butter", or the word jelly, or both.
The NOT Boolean operator will purposefully exclude articles containing the specified search term/s.
NOT can be used to narrow down the desired meaning of a term that has different connotative meanings.
Use the NOT Boolean operator with care. You might lose the perfect article because it randomly mentioned the term you excluded. If you need to reduce the amount of results your search yields first try thinking of another search term and adding it to your search with an AND.
Here you can see that the database will bring back articles about "peanut butter"-- but if that article mentions jelly anywhere in the text, even randomly, the database will exclude that article from the results.
Putting phrases in quotes can make a huge difference to your search!
Anything over one word is technically a phrase and should be placed inside "quotation marks". The reason for this is that databases are dumb. They do not understand that multiple words are part of the same phrase unless you tell them.
For example, if you typed peanut butter and jelly day without quotation marks the database would bring back every article with the word 'peanut' in it, every article with the word 'butter' in it, and so on...
In the example below, you can see that the phrase 'peanut butter and jelly day' was not placed in quotations and Google scholar brought back 27,100 results of which most were not pertinent.
In the second picture the phrase was placed in quotations and only 23 results came back, but all were pertinent.
Warning When you put a phrase into quotations the database will search for what's inside the quotations and ONLY what is inside the quotations. For example, a search for aspirin vs Tylenol will fail to bring back articles where the author phrased this differently, e.g. Tylenol vs Aspirin, or Aspirin versus Tylenol.
Phrases are highly specific. Be sure to consider all the different variations and make sure you include them in your search too!
Note* Some databases, such as, Psychinfo will not accept quotation marks and will assume that everything placed between two Boolean OR statements is a phrase, e.g. OR Tylenol vs Ibuprofen OR Ibuprofen vs Tylenol
Larger databases allow users to 'limit' their search by certain criteria, hence the name limiters.
Limiters are incredibly helpful and are usually found under the main search box or on the left hand side of the screen.
Do not use the Full Text limiter! It prevents you from seeing citations that might prove to be the perfect article for you. Remember you can always order articles from other libraries via our free ILL service.
Fields, are allocated spaces within a electronic article that are set up to store a specific type of information, e.g. the author field will be where author names are stored. The title field is where the title of the article will be stored.
Field searching allows you to tell a database exactly where you want to look for your keywords. By default, the field search will be set to 'all fields' meaning that your keyword search will check everywhere within an articles text for your specified keywords.
Field searches are helpful if:
You can get more pertinent articles by restricting your keyword search to the 'title' field. If the author has included your keywords in the actual title then there is a great chance that the article will be appropos to you.
You are looking for a specific author (author field).
You want to find a specific article but can only remember a word or two of the title (title field).
You want to pinpoint a particular subject (subject field).
You want articles that specifically mention your keywords in their abstract (abstract field).
You are looking something up by its ISBN number (ISBN field)
Example of Pubmed's fields:
Most databases will now automatically truncate words and check for variant spellings of a word.
You can add the truncation asterisk/symbol ( * ) to the root of a word and in doing so instruct the database to extrapolate all the possible endings--thereby saving you the time of entering them all in yourself. Be careful of cutting the word too short as this might open the search up to irrelevant search results.
The wildcard symbol (usually a "#" or "?") can be substituted in place of individual character/s in a term. This can be useful if you are not sure of the correct spelling of a word. However, it is mostly used to produce multiple forms of a term without having to enter that term multiple times,
Example: wom?n retrieves woman or women
Strategies to narrow down the number of results in a keyword search:
Strategies to broaden up the number of results in a keyword search: