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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 TIPS AND TRICKS

Ovid MEDLINE

Truncation/
Wildcards
* 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
 
Phrase/
Parenthesis
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
 
Proximity
operators
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
 
Search fields (examples)

.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

Subject
headings

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/

Web of Science

Truncation/
Wildcards
*

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

Phrase/
Parenthesis

“ “

finds exact expression

e.g., “occupational therapy”

()

specifies the order of the search

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

Proximity
operators

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.

Search fields (examples)

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

Subject headings

Not available

PubMed

Truncation/ Wildcards

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

Phrase/ Parenthesis

“ “

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

Proximity operators Not available
Search fields (examples)

[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

Subject headings

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]

Scopus

Truncation/ Wildcards

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

Phrase/ Parenthesis

" "

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

Proximity operators

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

Search fields (examples)

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

Subject headings Not available

CINAHL

Truncation/ Wildcards

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

Phrase/ Parenthesis

“ “

finds exact expression

e.g. “occupational therapy”

()

specifies the order of the search

e.g. (urban OR city) AND freshwater

Proximity operators

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.

Search fields (examples)

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

Subject headings

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

Schulich Librarians

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