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Nursing 326, 406, 502: Search Tips

Library of the Health Sciences

General Search Tips

Finding articles should be the easiest part of your assignment.  One strategy that can make your research run more smoothly is the use of subject headings, like MeSH.  Subject headings are what we call "controlled vocabulary."  In other words, they are terminology that are used to identify all the articles on a given topic.  For example, you could do one search for articles with the subject heading "Carbonated Beverages," instead of searching for all variations of the word "pop" (i.e. "soda," "coke," "soft drink").

When choosing your subject headings, remember this: "Search for Specificity."  Searching by broad, general concepts will retrieve many results, but you'll have to wade through lots of irrelevant articles.  Therefore it's generally advisable to start your database searches with "narrower" (i.e. more specific) terminology to retrieve fewer, but more relevant, results.  You can always expand your search later if you don't find what you need.  For example, a search for "Gastronintestinal Diseases" will retrieve over 600,000 citations, but a search for "Stomach Ulcer" will retrieve less than 23,000.  You should then add a second term to narrow your search even further.

Feel free to contact myself or the library reference desk if you would like help finding subject headings for your research topic.  After all, that's why we're here!  See the contact information to the right.

Have you ever wondered why librarians and professors discourage you from using Google for your assignments?  I certainly did when I was a student.  Well, scroll down to watch a video that explains why.

Video Tutorials

Why do librarians hate Google?

First of all, we don't hate Google; at least, I don't.  It can be a very useful tool.  However, it is important that everyone learn how to use Google intelligently; that includes knowing when not to use it!  If you have a few minutes, I encourage all of you to watch this 9 minute video.  The speaker, Eli Pariser, gave a presentation at TED2011 that discusses the personalization of search results in Google.  Here's what you should take away from his presentation: Google searches should not be relied on for your health sciences research because the results aren't reproducible.  Pariser demonstrates how Google (and other search engines) personalize your search results based on a variety of factors, including your physical location and your browser history.  This personalization is done automatically; you probably don't even know that it's happening.  Why should that matter to you? One of the most basic, yet important, characteristic of scientific research is that it is reproducible.  By its very nature, personalized search results cannot be reproduced by another researcher.  So do yourself a favor: don't use Google for your medical and health sciences research.