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Nursing & Health Sciences: Find Articles

Tutorials

Troubleshooting Searches

Too few articles:

  • Check for typos and spelling. Consider using both American and British spellings (eg. behaviour or behavior).
  • Remove long phrases.
  • Make sure you're using a database that is likely to include information on your topic.
  • Try using other synonyms and alternate words joined by the Boolean Operator 'OR' (e.g. aboriginal or indigenous or First Nations).
  • Check your Boolean logic.  Are you using 'AND' when you should be using 'OR'?
  • If you have found at least one good article, look at the references of this article to find other related articles OR use the 'Find citing' or 'Find related' buttons when available in the databases.

Too many articles:

  • Add another concept to your searching using the Boolean operator 'AND'.
  • Add Limits (e.g. Peer Reviewed, Date of Publication, Language, Publication Type, etc.).
  • Check your Boolean logic. Are you using 'OR' when you should be using 'AND'?
  • When Keyword searching, try searching just in the Title field. This is not recommended for all searches, as you will eliminate relevant articles that don't have those keywords in the title, but it will likely find a few articles to get you started.
  • If you're searching in a database that covers all subjects (e.g. Academic Search Elite, Web of Knowledge), look for a database that is subject specific.

Search

What is Interlibrary Loan?

Interlibrary loan is a system that allows you to request material from other libraries to be sent to Trent for you to borrow. Normally, there are no costs to use the ILL service. Plan ahead because it can take a few days or even weeks for material to be sent, depending upon availability.

Visit the RACER (ILL) page for more information.

Important Scholarly Databases

Try these databases first to find scholarly articles in Nursing and Health Sciences.

Other Useful Databases

Finding Articles Tips

Keyword searching - With a keyword search you look for a word, no matter where that word appears. If you like, you can specify that the word be in a particular field (e.g. the title, author, or subject), but it can be in any position (beginning, middle, or end). See the images below for examples of what this search could look like in the database, CINAHL.

  • Think of other words which express the same concepts as those you're looking for.  Keep in mind that the system searches for the exact letters you type, and not the general ideas they express. The system doesn't think. So you have to plan for single and plural, more specific and more general terms, nouns, adjectives, and verbs, etc.

    For example, for the topic 'Community programs for the prevention of social isolation in seniors in Canada'', keywords to consider may include:
Programs
Social Isolation
Seniors
Canada
programmes
    loneliness   
older adults
ontario
interventions
alienation
older persons
    toronto
services
 
elderly
 
 
 
aged
 
  • To search for a phrase many databases require quotations marks around the words. Otherwise, the database assumes an AND between the words and will search for them seperately. Keep in mind every database is different so you should check the HELP section to see how that database searches phrases.

    Eg. "social isolation"
     
  • Truncation and wildcards are used to find variations of words.

    Truncation will find any ending for the root of a word. The truncation symbol in most journal databases is the asterisk *.

    E.g. program* will find program or programs or programmes

    Wildcards are used within a word, to represent any letter. In CINAHL the wildcard symbol is #. 

    E.g. p#ediatric will find pediatric or paediatric
     
  • Combining Keywords

When you use AND, you are specifying that both terms must be found in every item found

E.g. program* and "social isolation" and elder* and canad*
 

When you use OR, you are specifying that items have either of the terms, but not necessarily both. Use an OR between synonymous or similar terms for a concept.

E.g. elder* or "older adults" or aged
 

Some databases provide search forms (usually in an Advanced search screen) so that you don't need to type in AND or OR. For those that don't, you need to place parentheses around those terms that have OR between them.

E.g. (program* or intervention*) and ("social isolation") and (elder* or "older adults" or aged) and (canad* or ontario* or toronto*)

Narrowing your results

Check the database for ways to limit your results to:

  • Language – e.g. English
  • Publication Type e.g. Empirical study, case study
  • Scholarly articles/Peer Reviewed articles
  • Date range

Check the record where your search terms matched. The best matches for topics are in fields like Subject or Title. Search specific fields if there is an Advanced or Expert search option.

Use Subject Headings or Descriptors if available to increase the relevancy of your results

Add another concept to your search using the Boolean operator “AND”

Getting the Full-Text

Sometimes the database you are searching also provides full text journals. In this case you may see below or next to the citation a 'Full-Text' link to the article.

If you do not see a Full-Text link, this does not always mean we don't have the article. It may be available from another source. In this case, to determine if Trent has the full-text of an article, click on the GetIt!Trent icon. This icon can be seen near each citation in a database.

Note: If you see the notation below a citation, “ Trent Library does not have this journal”, please ignore as it is not always accurate. GetIt! Trentwill be able to better tell you if we have the journal.

If an article is not available, you can request an InterLibrary Loan (ILL) through RACER. Keep in mind articles via ILL are not available overnight, so this service is only useful if you have enough time to receive the article before your project is due. We recommend that you allow 7-10 days. For more information and to register for an account please go to the RACER web site.

Below are examples of how to input a search strategy in CINAHL for the topic, "Community programs for the prevention of social isolation in seniors."

Note the selections made under Limit your results


Screenshot of keyword search in CINAHL


This search produced almost 300.  The following is one of several relevant articles found. 
 

Screenshot of citation in results


You can use the information in this citation to develop a slightly different search strategy.  Notice the important keywords social isolation and loneliness in the Title and Subject fields.  Instead of doing a keyword search in any field, try selecting one of these fields from the drop down menu to refine your search (see image below).   Selecting 'Exact Major Subject Heading' will retrieve articles where social isolation or loneliness are the main topic of the article. 

Screenshot of keyword search in CINAHL


Notice, keywords for the concept of seniors are not included in the search strategy this time.  In CINAHL you can limit your results by age group in the Refine Results menu on the left-hand side of the screen.

Screenshot of Refine Results menu in CINAHL

There is no one right way to do a search.  Try different combinations of keywords and fields, and different databases.

There are multiple ways to find to articles on your topic within the Canadian context. 

  1. Keywords
  2. Subject Headings

Keywords

Think about the words an author might use to describe research done in Canada. These words could include, but may not be limited to, any of of the provincial names.  Add these place names to your strategy.  Remember to use 'or' between them.

canad* or ontario or quebec or newfoundland or labrador or new brunswick or nova scotia or prince edward island or PEI or manitoba or saskatchewan or alberta or british columbia or nunavut or yukon or north west territories

Note:  The asterisk (*) placed after the root of a word will find variant endings (e.g. canad* will find canada or canada's or canadian or canadians)

A search in CINAHL may look like this: 

Search Screen in CINAHL with Canada keywords

 

Subject Headings

Subject Headings are tags used to describe the topic of an article. All articles about the same topic will all have the same tag. When you use subject headings you don't necessarily  have to think about all the ways in which an author might refer to the same concept, nor do you have to type all the synonyms into the search box.  If an article is about research in Canada in general, it will be tagged with the subject heading, Canada.  If an article is about research in Ontario specifically, it will be tagged with the subject heading, Ontario.  Follow the steps below to use subject headings related to Canada. 

1. Click on CINAHL Headings.

CINAHL Headings link

2. Type in Canada.  Click on Browse.

CINAHL Headings Searching for Canada heading

3. Select Canada.  Select Explode to include all province names. Click on Search Database.  (Note: If you need articles about research in specific provinces, then click on Canada to see the full list of provincial names)

4. This will result in a search for the Subject Headings for ‘Canada’ including all the provincial names.  This strategy will now appear in the search box as (MH “Canada+").  At this time you could add keyword search terms to the boxes below, then click on Search.  Alternately, you could search for more Subject Headings and combine them in the Search History view.

 

The search illustrates keywords, limits and filters that could be used to answer the following qualitative question:

What are the issues families might consider when making decisions about prenatal diagnosis?

Possible keyword search strategy:

prenatal screening* or antenatal screening* or prenatal diagnos* or antenatal diagnos*
and
decision*
and
qualitative

SEARCH TIPS:

  • To narrow your search to Qualitative research articles you need to think about the keywords related to the questions this type of research seeks to answer and the methodologies.
     
    • Qualitative research may include questions about meaning, experience, attitudes, perceptions, opinions, emotions, decision making.  These are some of the very words you can used as keywords in your search for articles.  
    • Qualitative research uses several methods of data collection and research designs. These may include Grounded Theory, ethnography, storytelling, interviews, focus groups. Again, these are some of the very words you can used as keywords in your search for articles.  
       
  • In CINAHL, Medline, and PubMed there is the option to limit your search by Clinical Queries. Behind these limits are pre-arranged search strategies that will be added to your subject search to filter out the best research.

    From CINAHL: " Clinical Queries allow the user to limit searches using specific search strategies to aid in retrieving scientifically sound and clinically relevant studies. Searches can be refined using specific search strategies designed to produce results in 5 research areas, and the emphasis may be Sensitive (i.e., most relevant articles but probably some less relevant ones), Specific (i.e., mostly relevant articles but probably omitting a few), or Optimized (i.e., the combination of terms that optimizes the trade-off between sensitivity and specificity). (NOTE: the * is the truncation symbol used to find variant endings to the root of a word. Eg. adolesc* will find adolescent or adolescents or adolescence.)

(NOTE: the * is the truncation symbol used to find variant endings to the root of a word. Eg. adolesc* will find adolescent or adolescents or adolescence.)

 

Screen shot of keyword entry in CINAHLScreenshot of available Limits in CINAHL

The search illustrates keywords, limits and filters that could be used to answer the following intervention/therapy question:

In female patients with urinary incontinence, are pelvic floor exercises an effective therapy?

Possible keyword search strategy:

incontinen* or continen*
and
kegel or pelvic floor
and
exercis*

SEARCH TIPS:

  • Clinical trials are of the more rigorous types of studies determining the effectiveness of an intervention or therapy; Randomized Controlled Trials being the most rigorous. Limiting your search to these types of studies is one way to find the best evidence.
     
  • In CINAHL, Medline, and PubMed there is the option to limit your search by Clinical Queries. Behind these limits are pre-arranged search strategies that will be added to your keyword search to filter out the best research.

From CINAHL: " Clinical Queries allow the user to limit searches using specific search strategies to aid in retrieving scientifically sound and clinically relevant studies. Searches can be refined using specific search strategies designed to produce results in 5 research areas, and the emphasis may be Sensitive (i.e., most relevant articles but probably some less relevant ones), Specific (i.e., mostly relevant articles but probably omitting a few), or Optimized (i.e., the combination of terms that optimizes the trade-off between sensitivity and specificity).

(NOTE: the * is the truncation symbol used to find variant endings to the root of a word. Eg. adolesc* will find adolescent or adolescents or adolescence.)

The search illustrates keywords, limits and filters that could be used to answer the following harm/causation question:

In women taking oral contraceptives, is there an association between there use and cardiovascular disease?

Possible keyword search strategy:

contracept*
and
cardiovascular or heart or myocardial or vascular or cerebrovascular or thrombo* or stroke*
and
risk*

SEARCH TIPS:

  • Case control studies and cohort studies are the types of studies often used in harm/causation research. Limiting your search to these types of studies is one way to find the best evidence.
    • Add the keyword 'cohort' or 'case control' to your keyword search to filter out the best research.
    • Adding the keyword 'risk' to your keyword search is another way to filter out the best research.
       
  • In CINAHL, Medline, and PubMed there is the option to limit your search by Clinical Queries. Behind these limits are pre-arranged search strategies that will be added to your subject search to filter out the best research.

From CINAHL: " Clinical Queries allow the user to limit searches using specific search strategies to aid in retrieving scientifically sound and clinically relevant studies. Searches can be refined using specific search strategies designed to produce results in 5 research areas, and the emphasis may be Sensitive (i.e., most relevant articles but probably some less relevant ones), Specific (i.e., mostly relevant articles but probably omitting a few), or Optimized (i.e., the combination of terms that optimizes the trade-off between sensitivity and specificity).

(NOTE: the * is the truncation symbol used to find variant endings to the root of a word. Eg. adolesc* will find adolescent or adolescents or adolescence.)

Screenshot of keyword search entry in CINAHLScreen shot of possible limits in CINAHL

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5 Ways to Use 1 Article To Find More Articles

One good article can lead to many other good articles.  Find out how by using the following article features and database tools:

  1. Reference List
  2. Cited By Tool
  3. Author
  4. Keywords/Subject Headings
  5. Find Related Articles Tool

The reference list, also a known as a bibliography or works cited, is one of the best places to find more articles on your topic. As you read through an article make note of any in-text citations to articles in the reference list that might be useful. The article we are using as an example has 47 publications in its reference list. These publications include scholarly articles, books, book chapters, government documents and websites. 

There are usually two ways to access publications in a reference list:

  1. If you have a copy of the article, either in print or as a PDF file, you will always find the reference list at the end of the article.  When there are no links to the publications in a reference list and all you have is the text of references, you'll need to use the Library's resources to determine if Trent has access to the publication.  To do this, follow the instructions in our Navigating from a Citation to a Document tutorial.
     
  2. Many databases include the list of references in the database record for an article. In this case, you don't need the full-text of an article to see its references. Below are images from three different databases (CINAHL in EBSCO, Web of Science and PsycInfo in Proquest) illustrating where the link to the reference list is located in the database record.  Clicking on this link will display the list of references where  will also be available to click on to determine whether or not Trent has access to the article and if so, a link to the full-text. In addition, if an article in a reference list is from a journal that is also available in that database, it is likley the title will be linked to its database record so you can read its abstract and see its references.

    Note: If the publication of interest in a reference list is not an article from a journal, (e.g. a book or book chapter) Get It! Trent will not identify it so you will need to find it following the instructions in our Navigating from a Citation to a Document tutorial.  If it is a web site, simply follow the link provided in the reference.  If it is a recent government report, it is likely online and can be located with a Google search of its title.
     

CINAHL (in EBSCO platform)

Cited References Link on Ebsco Database Record

Web of Science

PsycInfo (in Proquest platform)

An article's reference list looks at the research back in time.  An article's list of citing publications looks at the research forward in time. The latter is helpful in finding current research based on earlier research. Once you find an article of interest, look for a Cited By or Times Cited link. This link will display a list of publications (e.g. articles, books, book chapters, government documents) that have cited the article of interest - documents published after the article of interest. 

You may notice that for the article used as an example here, the number of publications citing it varies from database to database. For example, CINAHL indicates the article has been cited 46 times, whereas the Web of Science indicates it has been cited 60 times.  This is because these databases do not index the exact same journal titles nor the same number of journals.  CINAHL includes mostly nursing journals, whereas the Web of Science includes some nursing journals as well as many more journals from other disciplines. Sometimes it's interesting to see how research in one discipline is being supported by research in another. You may also notice that not every article has been cited. If an article has just been published, for example, it's likely that not enough time has gone by for it to have been read and used to support current research. 

Below are images from three different databases (CINAHL in EBSCO, Web of Science, PsycInfo in Proquest and Google Scholar) illustrating where the link to the list of citing articles is located in the database record of an article.  Clicking on this link will display a list of citing publications where  will also be available to click on to determine whether or not Trent has access to the publication and if so, a link to the full-text. In addition, if an article in this list is from a journal that is also available in that database, it is likely the title will be linked to its record in that database so you can read its abstract and see its references and look at its citing articles.  Note: If the publication of interest in this list is not an article from a journal, (e.g. a book or book chapter) Get It! Trent will not identify it so you will need to find it following the instructions in our Navigating from a Citation to a Document tutorial.  If it is a web site, simply follow the link provided in the reference.  If it is a recent government report, it is likely online and can be located with a Google search of its title.

 

CINAHL (in EBSCO platform)

EBSCO location of Times Cited link

Web of Science

Web of Sciene locatino of Cited by link

PsycINFO (in Proquest platform)

Google Scholar

Note: The Get It Trent icon link does not automatically appear in Google Scholar, but there is a way to set Google Scholar so that it does appear.  Follow the instructions here.

Google Scholar location of Cited by link

 

Authors may write more than one article about related topics.  In most databases the author names are hyperlinked.  Clicking on the author name will display other articles written by an author with this name.  Keep in mind, there may be more than one author with the same name so you may see articles on completely different topics. 

Web of Science Location of Author

Clicking on the author name Browne AJ in the article's record in Web of Science resulted in a list of 13 other articles.  Some of these are quite similar to the original article of interest, especially #6.  To read this article you would click on the link.

WOS List of articles by AJ Browne


 

Reading the Abstract and Subject Heading fields in the database record of a relevant article is a good way to identify keywords/phrases related to your topic that you may not have used in the initial search.  You can use these in a new keyword search to find more articles. 

Terms found in the Subject Heading field can be especially useful. Terms in this field are like tags used to describe the topic of an article. All articles about the same topic will all have the same tag.   For example, in CINAHL the Subject Heading 'Native Americans' is used to tag all articles about any indigenous peoples groups in North America. Using this Subject Heading means you do not need to type in all the similar/broader/narrower terms related to this topic that authors may use (e.g. Indigenous or First Nations or Inuit or Metis or Mohawk or Cree). Subject Headings will vary from database to database. For example, in CINAHL the subject heading 'Native Americans' is equivalent to PsycINFO's subject heading 'Indigenous Populations'.  To search with Subject Headings once you have identified them, see the instructions here.

In the database records below notice the different words/phrases referring to similar concepts, as grouped below.

First nations / Native Americans / Indigenous Populations

Professional - Patient Relations / Experiences / Patient Attitudes / Viewpoint / Adult Attitudes / Qualitative Studies / Interviews / Narratives
(Note: 'Qualitative Studies' and 'Interviews' are in this group as these are study methodologies often used to acquire information about attitudes and experiences and can be used as keywords to find articles on these topics.)

Health Care / Medical / Patients
(Note: 'Health Care' is sometimes written as one word - 'healthcare')

Women / Female

Cultural Safety / Racism / Discrimination / Stereotyping / Marginalize /

CINAHL (in EBSCO platform)

Web of Science

PsycINFO (in Proquest platform)

Searching with identified Subject Headings in CINAHL and PsycINFO

CINAHL

In CINAHL you need to start a new search by entering the subject heading terms into the search boxes exactly as they appear in the Subject list and selecting an Exact Subject Heading field in the drop down menu. 

Below is a sample of the results. Notice they are quite similar in topic to the initial article found.

PsycINFO

In PsycINFO you can use the "Search with Index terms" to execute a new search.

 

 

Many databases have a tool/button to find Related Articles. When you use this tool the database will present you with a list of articles that may be similar to the article you originally found. 

CINAHL (in EBSCO platform)

PsycINFO (Proquest platform)

Web of Science

Google Scholar

 

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Literature Reviews

There are several types of literature reviews - overview, critical, integrative, systematic, etc.  Below are web pages, articles, and books that describe and outline the process of various types of literature reviews.

Websites

Articles

Books in Library