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Nursing Resources: Key word search or subject search?

Ashland University Library sources for Nursing students and faculty.

About Keyword Search

Keyword searching uses natural language.  A keyword search may be a good way to begin a search, but it may retrieve a few irrelevant results.  One strategy is to start with keyword search, and from the results select an article record that looks useful. You may then make note of the Subject heading or MeSH that are assigned by the database.  You may continue your search using the subject terms in the keyword search or in a precise subject search.


Keyword search tips for databases and book catalogs:


·         Use only simple words or phrases, not sentences (Not “the benefits of the cervical cancer vaccine ” but simply “cervical cancer vaccine” )


·         Use AND to limit your search to results that include ALL of the keywords (Ex.- men  AND women.  Excludes articles just about men or     just about women. An AND search always results in fewer results.)


·         Use OR to expand your search and indicate that you would like results with either term (Ex.-men OR women Includes articles about men, about women and about men and women. An OR search normally results in more results.


·         Use * as a wildcard (truncation).  Tacked on to a root word it retrieves variants. For example: nurs* retrieves articles on nurse, nurses, nursing, etc. (Note: OhioLINK databases use $ instead of *)


·         Use quote marks or parentheses to indicate that you want one or more words in the exact order in which you  type them  Ex.-“school nurse”  or  (school nurse) AND (diabetes)


·         Try to think of other ways to think of your concept in order to increase your results (Ex.-Rather than looking for articles on “gender” you can try: gender OR sex difference OR male OR female OR men OR women)


About Subject Search

Subject Searching (Controlled Vocabularies)

Controlled vocabularies are standardized, hierarchical lists designated to represent the major subject concepts and conditions contained within a database.

Before an item is added to a database or catalog, its subject matter is determined. This way, there is a consistent method for retrieving the same information concepts even when different terminology has been used by an author. The listing is standardized and somewhat predictable. For example, the term "heart attack" is always listed as "myocardial infarction" within a controlled vocabulary structure, such as MeSH (Medical Subject Headings), the vocabulary used by MEDLINE and the OhioLINK book catalog.

 Different databases may use different controlled vocabularies (subject headings).  For example, the article Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers in Hospital (in the journal Paediatric Nursing) is assigned different subject headings in the database CINAHL and in the database Health Source Nursing

Adapted from Valparaiso U Christopher Center Library



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