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NURS 200W: Principles of Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice

This guide is for students enrolled in NURS 200W at Behrend.

Using Databases

What should I type in?
  • Search for keywords.
    • Search for keywords, jargon, and specialized terminology. Think of your PICO question. What concepts must be mentioned in the articles you find?
      • Population
      • Problem
      • Intervention
      • Outcome
      • Context
    • Databases will show you articles that mention all of the words you type into the search boxes.

  • Plan to search for synonyms too.
    • Initial keywords may not work as planned. Plan to search for synonyms (other words and phrases) that refer to the same or a very similar concept.
  • Look for "subject headings" and search for them.
    • Pay attention to "subjects" or "subject headings" or "medical subject headings" listed near relevant articles. This is one way to identify language that experts use to describe your topic.
  • Tip: Quotation Marks
    • Place quotation marks around a phrase (anything more than one word). Doing this will search for the phrase exactly how you type it in. Quotation marks are not beneficial or necessary for just one word.
      • Example:    "quality of life"
  • Tip: Asterisks
    • Add an asterisk * after the base of a word. This will tell the database to search for variations of that word.
      • Example: nurs*
      • Results will include articles that mention any of the following words: nurse, nurses, and/or nursing.
Avoid irrelevant results.
  • Search for keywords in abstracts.
    • Because abstracts are summaries of articles, if your search terms are mentioned in the abstracts, chances are those articles will be very relevant to your topic.
    • Searching for keywords in article titles may be too limiting. Searching for keywords in the full text may show irrelevant results.
    • See the example below.

Image of a search in the database CINAHL showing location of specific fields to search

  • Sort the list of results by relevance.
    • Sometimes the default setting will list results by publication date.
  • Combine and exclude search terms.
    • You can type the following commands between your search terms to make the database work for you.
      • AND
      • OR
      • NOT
    • See the following example.

Image of a search in the database Cinahl.

Find more.
  • Look in the "References" section.
    • The "References" section of an article will list very relevant sources on your topic. Search for the titles of these articles in LionSearch or Google Scholar.
    • Lionsearch is the single searchbox located on the library's main page.
    • Google Scholar can be accessed at
  • Click on the "Cited By" links.
    • Many databases and Google Scholar have "Cited By" links. This link shows articles that reference the original article.


Other Databases