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Use the process...
- Decide what you need to find.
- Determine the best place to search for it.
- Experiment with search terms and search syntax. Capture what looks valuable, but focus on developing your search strategy. If you can create a "clean" search you will find everything on your topic and nothing not on your topic: the database software will do its work for you.
- Evaluate what you've found:
- Are the results on target or do you need to tweak your search?
- Have you covered all the aspects of the topic you need?
- Do you need to focus in on one or more aspects?
- Do you need to expand your search?
- ... back to step 1.
Decide what you want to find
Suppose I'm interested in what types of physical therapy could help people who have COVID-19.
My first search is:
COVID-19 and "physical therapy"
Determine the best place to search for it
The library has set up a s system for you to easily find the best place to search. Go to the library home page and scroll down to the "Choose a database" tile. Click on that and then select the best fit for the subject you're searching. It will bring up a list of databases that work well for that subject area. Each database link is followed by a "scope note", a short description of the type of materials you can find in that database.
Experiment with search terms and search strategy
Run your first search.
Examine the search results.
- Do you need to expand the results? Use Boolean OR
- Do you need to focus the results? Use Boolean AND
- Do you need to retarget your search? Examine your search terms, what other terms could you use?
- Are there too many old articles, or too many that aren't research reports? Use the limits to focus to the last five years and to limit to the type of article you need.
- Does everything just feel off? Are you in the right database?
- Did you find a great on-target article? Use PEARL SEARCHING
Work on your strategy until you get the results you need.
Database specific notes
In PubMed you can use Pearl Searching through the MeSH (Medical Subject Heading) Thesaurus. There you can find narrower terms and you can combine terms. To do this: open an article that is directly focused on your topic. Scroll down to the MeSH headings and click on the heading of interest. Explore the MeSH thesaurus entry for that subject and select what you want to construct your next search.
In PubMed, if you want to combine searches, go to "Advanced." There you will find your recent searches. Use the numbers to combine them. Example: #4 and (#3 or #2)
Do NOT pay for articles
The library will get you anything! Try Ask a librarian and Interlibrary Loan.