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NURS 417: Family and Community Health

Research guide for the Community Health Teaching Project

Search Strategy & Evaluation

Search Strategies

Do: Brainstorm various possible terms for your search. Choose the terms closest to what you are looking for and seem the most natural terms to describe the concepts.

diabetes, diabetes mellitus, diabetes mellitus type 2
elderly, aged, aging, seniors

Do: Combine concepts using AND/OR/NOT.

children AND obesity
"heart attack" OR "myocardial infarction"

Do: Add quotations marks around phrases to improve search results (or remove them to broaden your search). 

"post-traumatic stress disorder"

Do: Revise your search terms based on other words you encounter in your research. Consider the intended audience of the website (general public vs. medical professionals) when deciding whether to use popular or media terms as your search keywords.

"heart attack" becomes "myocardial infarction"

Do: Resort your results by date/relevance. Do you want the most recent or the most relevant at the top?

Don't give up looking if your results aren't what you expect! Revise your terms or switch databases and keep looking! 

Do: Ask for help if you're not finding what you're looking for!


The sources you use lend you the author's credibility and understanding of the subject--so find a knowledgeable expert! Research articles also provide you with evidence for the statements you are trying to make in your own writing.

A simple way to evaluate any information is to consider its credibility, content, and currency (the 3 C's). Consider:

  • Credibility of the author or publication in which the article appears
    • Who wrote the article? What makes them an authority or expert on the subject?
      • Google the author to find out what makes him or her an expert. Advanced degree(s) in the subject area? History of publications on the topic? Employed by a reputable university/college or educational/research organization?
    • What is the type/reputation of the source?
      • Read the "About" section for a journal, magazine, or other website to learn about the scope and mission of the publication. For example, read the "About This Journal" page for Advances in Nursing Science
      • For more about different types of publications, see this chart describing scholarly, popular, and trade publications.
  • Content of the article
    • Does it meet your research needs? Will it answer any questions you might have about the subject? If you could have anything, is this exactly what you were looking for? 
    • Will it be interesting for you to read? 
  • Currency of the article
    • Was the article published recently? Does it reflect the current treatments or therapies for this condition?
    • When considering currency of scholarly journal articles, remember they are typically published quarterly (4 times/year) and it can be one year or more between the time the research is conducted and an article about it is published.