Skip to main content

Health Sciences Information Starter Guide

Useful things to know before you meet your librarian

All databases - Boolean operators

Boolean operators

AND - retrieves records that include all of your search terms

  • e.g. diet therapy AND bulimia

OR - retrieves records that contain at least one of your search terms

  • e.g. dog OR canine

NOT - retrieves records that contain your first term but exclude your second term.

  • e.g. dementia NOT alzheimer's
  • (We do not usually recommend that you use NOT in your searches, as you may exclude relevant results.)

All databases - Wildcards

WILDCARDS

Wildcards are shortcut characters which can help to include spelling variations and derivatives of your key word without having to type each individually. Here are the most common usages, but be aware that this may vary for individual databases.

ASTERISK

Depending on database, use before, within or after word or string to replace multiple characters

e.g. computer* retrieves  computer,  computerscomputerised,  etc.

question mark

QUESTION MARK

Depending on database, use before, within or after word or string to replace zero or one character

e.g. colo?r retrieves  colorcolour

dollar symbol

DOLLAR SYMBOL

Depending on database, use before, within or after word or string to replace a single character

e.g. wom$n retrieves  womanwomen

ADVANCED SEARCH TIPS

The search tips are provided for researchers interested in applying more advanced techniques to their searches. We provide them in this combined listing purely as a reference guide.

DATABASE - WEB OF SCIENCE

Web of Science

 Truncation/Wildcards

 Phrase/

 Parenthesis

 Proximity operators

 Search fields  (examples)

 Subject  headings

 * 

before, within or after word  or string to replace multiple characters

e.g., computer* retrieves computer, computers, computerised,  etc.

?

before, within or after word  or string to replace any  single character

e.g., colo?r

retrieves color, colour

$

before, within or after word  or string to replace zero or one character

e.g. wom$n

retrieves woman, women

 “ “

finds exact  expression

e.g., “occupational  therapy”

()

specifies the order of the search

e.g., (urban OR city) AND freshwater

NEAR/n

replaces the n with a number to  specify the maximum number of  words that separate the terms.

e.g., biologist NEAR/5 relationship

finds articles in which biologist and relationship are no more than 5 terms apart

SAME

in address searches, use SAME to  restrict your search to terms that appear in the same address within a full record

e.g.,

AD= (McGill Univ SAME Quebec SAME Canada)

retrieves records in which McGill  University appears in the addresses  field of a full record along with  Quebec and Canada.

TI= Title

TS= Topic

AU= Author

SU= Research  Area (Index)

PY=

Year Published

e.g., TI=(Therapy)

retrieves all the articles in which therapy will be  in the title

 Not  available

DATABASE - OVID MEDLINE

Ovid MEDLINE

Truncation/Wildcards

 Phrase/

 Parenthesis

  Proximity operators

 Search fields  (examples)

 Subject  headings

* or $ 

at the end of string  retrieves all suffix  variations

e.g., computer* retrieves computer, computers, computerised, etc.

#

within a word or at end of  word to replace a single  character

e.g., wom#n

retrieves woman, women

?

within a word or at the  end of a word to replace  zero or one character

e.g., colo?r

retrieves color, colour

No quotes generally required for phrase searching, looks for exact expression by default

()

specifies the order of the search

e.g., (urban OR city) AND  freshwater

adjn

retrieves records that contain  your terms (in any order)  within a specified number (n)  of words of each other

n= 1 to 99

e.g., biologist adj5 relationship

retrieves records that contain  the words biologist and relationship within five words of each other in either order.

 Freq=n

specifies a term's threshold of occurrence in the records  retrieved. Mostly used when  you search the full text

e.g. 

cancer.tw./freq=5

retrieves records in which  blood appears 5 or more  times in the full text field

.ab. : Abstract

.au. : Author

.in. : Institution

.jn. : Journal name

.mp. : multiple fields

.pt. : Publication  type

.sh. : Mesh S.H

.ti. : Title

.tw. : Text word

.yr. : Year of  publication

e.g., American  journal of human biology.jn.

retrieves article records from the American   journal of human biology

MeSH terms

Explode SH

expands results to include records  with the SH you  originally selected,  PLUS all of the subject headings  in its family hierarchy

e.g., exp diabetes mellitus/

Focus SH

retrieves article records in which indexers consider your topic to be of major significance

e.g., exp *diabetes mellitus/

DATABASE - PUBMED

PubMed

 Truncation/Wildcards 

 Phrase/

 Parenthesis

 Proximity  operators

 Search fields  (examples)

 Subject headings

 *

 at the end of string  retrieves all suffix  variations

 e.g., computer* retrieves  computer, computers,  computerised, etc.

 Truncation will turn off  automatic mapping to  MeSH terms

Note: In PubMed, do not use truncation in quotations

 “ “

 finds exact  expression

 e.g., “occupational  therapy”

Note: In PubMed, do not use truncation in quotations

 ()

specifies the  order of the  search

 e.g., (urban OR  city) AND  freshwater

 Not available

[mh] : MeSH terms

[majr]: MeSH Major Topic

[au]: Author

[tiab]:  Title/Abstract or author keywords

[tw]: Title, abstract, author keywords, entry terms (Note: PubMed does not search full text)

[pdat]:  Publication year

[pt]: Publication type

[pubn]: Publisher

 e.g., John  Smith[au]  retrieves the  articles whose  author is John  Smith

 MeSH terms

 Explode

PubMed automatically  searches the MeSH heading  as well as the more specific  terms beneath that heading  in the MeSH hierarchy

In the MeSH Database term, untick Do not include  MeSH terms found below this  term in the MeSH hierarchy if you do not want to include narrower subject headings

e.g., "diabetes mellitus"[mesh:noexp]

Major topic

[majr]

retrieves articles where  indexers consider your topic  to be of major significance

 e.g., "diabetes mellitus"[majr]

DATABASE - SCOPUS

Scopus

 Truncation/Wildcards 

 Phrase/

 Parenthesis

 Proximity operators

 Search fields  (examples)

 Subject  headings

 *

replace from 0 to  multiple characters  anywhere in a word

 e.g. computer* retrieves  computer, computers,  computerised, etc.

 ?

replace a single  character anywhere in a  word

 e.g. colo?r

 retrieves color, colour

" "

searches for phrases

e.g., "occupational therap*"

{}

 finds exact  expression; do not combine with truncation

 e.g.  {occupational  therapy}

 ()

specifies the  order of the  search

 e.g. (urban OR city) AND  freshwater

 PRE/n

 Preceded by n

 retrieves articles that  contains your words ( in  the same order) within a  specified number (n) of  words of each other

 e.g.  behavioural PRE/3  disturbances

 finds articles in which  behavioural precedes  disturbances by three or  fewer words.

 W/n

 Within n

 replaces the n with a  number to specify the  maximum number of  words that separate the  terms.

 e.g.  biologist W/5  relationship

 finds articles in which  biologist and relationship  are no more than 5  terms apart

 TITLE()

 AUTHOR-NAME()

 FIRSTAUTH()

 TITLE-ABS()

 DOCTYPE(xx) Type  of  the document  (index)

 PUBYEAR year of  publication

 SUBJAREA(XX)   Subject area (index)

 e.g. AUTHOR  NAME(smith)

 retrieves the articles  whose author is John  Smith

 e.g. PUBYEAR AFT  2000

 retrieves articles  published after 2000

 e.g. DOCTYPE(ar)

 retrieves articles only

 Not available


DATABASE - CINAHL

CINAHL

 Truncation/Wildcards 

 Phrase/

 Parenthesis

 Proximity operators

 Search fields  (examples)

 Subject  headings

 *

 at the end of string  retrieves all suffix  variations

 e.g. computer* retrieves  computer, computers,  computerised, etc.

 ?

 within a word or at end of  word to replace a single  character

 e.g. ne?t

 retrieves neat, nest,  next.

 #

 within a word or at the  end of a word to replace  zero or one character

 e.g. colo#r

 retrieves color, colour

 “ “

 finds exact  expression

 e.g. 

“occupational therapy”

 ()

 specifies the  order of the  search

 e.g. (urban OR  city) AND  freshwater

 Nn

 Near operator

 retrieves records that  contain your terms (in  any order) within a  specified number (n) of  words of each other

 e.g. biologist N5  relationship

 retrieves records that  contain the words  biologist and relationship  within five words of each  other in either direction.

 Wn

 Within operator

 finds the words if they  are within (n) words of    one another and in the  order in which you  entered them.

 e.g.  biologist W5  relationship

 finds articles in which  biologist precedes  relationship by five or  fewer words.

 TX: All Text

 TI: Title

 AU: Author

 AF: Author affiliation

 AB: Abstract

 PT: Publication type

 MH: Subject Headings

 JN: Publication name

 DT: Publication Date

 PY: Year of  Publication

 PB: Publisher

 e.g. JN American  journal of nursing  retrieves the articles  published in American   journal of nursing

 e.g. PY 2000

 retrieves the articles  published in 2000

 CINALH   Headings

 Explode

 expands results  to include  records with  the  SH you  originally  selected, PLUS  all of the  subject  headings in its  family  hierarchy

 Major  concept

 retrieves  articles where  indexers  consider your  topic to be of  major  significance

McGill LibraryQuestions? Ask us!
Privacy notice