Skip to Main Content

Searching for Education Topics

Tips and Tricks for locating health science education related literature

This guide provides tips for searching for literature.

Searching Tips:

  • Write down your question
  • Search ONE concept at a time
    • Takes best advantage of term mapping features built into database interfaces
    • Provides flexibility to re-combine terms in new ways in your search history
  • Combine keywords using Boolean Operators (AND & OR)
    • OR is expansive; good for synonym building with like concepts
      (ex. fruit or apples or oranges or bananas – ANY concepts can be present)
    • AND is restrictive; forces topics to overlap
      (ex. Oranges AND vitamin C – BOTH concepts must be present))

What Happens When There is No Subject Heading for a Concept?

  • Use keywords to search the concept – a keyword or text word search looked for the words in the title/abstract of the record
  • Synonym building is crucial! 
    Think of, and search, any way an author might refer to your topic
    Ex. Peer evaluation, peer assessment, peer feedback, peer grading, evaluating peers, peer formative feedback, etc.
  • Use truncation to include alternate word endings (* usually the symbol))
    • Don’t truncate too “far up” a word – may get too many extraneous words (ex. Cat* will give cats, catatonic, catastrophe, etc)
    • Special Notes for PubMed
      -At least 4 characters must be provided before the *
      -Truncated term must be the last word in the phrase (cannot search peer* assessment*)
      -Truncation turns off automatic term mapping and the process that includes the MeSH term and any specific terms indented under that term in the MeSH hierarchy
  • Database interfaces handle keyword searching differently – when in doubt, as a librarian!
    • Ovid (Medline, PsycInfo) and EBSCO (CINAHL, ERIC) words next to each other are processed as a phrase from left to right; the hyphen is ignored
      Ex. Team-based learning  is processed as the team next to based next to learning. It will not find “learning in teams”
    • PubMed – looks for the phrase on a pre-cooked phrase list. It will also break each term apart. Embedded hyphens changes how terms are searched:
      Ex. Team-based learning is processed:
      "team-based"[All Fields] AND (((((("learning"[MeSH Terms] OR "learning"[All Fields]) OR "learn"[All Fields]) OR "learned"[All Fields]) OR "learning's"[All Fields]) OR "learnings"[All Fields]) OR "learns"[All Fields])

      Team based learning is processed:
      "team"[All Fields] AND ("based"[All Fields] OR "basing"[All Fields]) AND (((((("learning"[MeSH Terms] OR "learning"[All Fields]) OR "learn"[All Fields]) OR "learned"[All Fields]) OR "learning's"[All Fields]) OR "learnings"[All Fields]) OR "learns"[All Fields])

  • Proximity Operators

    • Can specify words appear close together but further apart than an exact phrase
    • PubMed does NOT have proximity operators
    • Ovid (Medline, PsycInfo)  = adj# 
      Example: peer* adj2 assess* will find peer assessment and also assessed by their peers
      Example: peer* N2 assess*
    • May use parentheses to group synonyms – watch for typos!!
      Example: peer* adj2 (evaluat* or assess* or feedback or grad*)

Best Bets - Databases, Journals, Citation Mgt