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Nursing & Health Sciences: Evidence Based Practice (useful for Nurs2031/3031)

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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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Evidence Based Practice: Step by Step Article Series from the American Journal of Nursing

CRITICAL APPRAISAL

A list of articles and websites to help guide you through the process of critically appraising research.

Evidence Based Practice/Nursing Books