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Healthcare and Social Services: How to do a search?


  • Start with a simple search and modify it based on search results.
  • Use what you have already found:
    • Authors, subject headings, bibliographies, etc.
  • Perfect articles are not always available ⇒ consider different points of view, larger context, narrower topics.
  • Finding information is a process!

The database does what you tell it to do

  • Databases only understand words you type in and will perform a search accordingly.
  • Databases do not understand how these words are linked unless you tell it what the connections are.
  • This is why it is useful to know some basic techniques.

Some search techniques

  • Truncation: * (therap* ⇒ therapy, therapeutic, therapist…)
    • Finds all the different forms of a word
  • Phrases: mental health (quotation marks)
  • Limit your searches: date, language, type of publication, etc.
  • Use operators: 
    • To combine words use AND ⇒ nursing AND competence
    • To provide synonyms use OR ⇒ (medication OR “drug administration”)

Database compares search terms to article details

Do NOT type in sentences!

  • Many databases will search this as a phrase.
  • Use this only when searching for a specific article by title.

Structure your search!

Medication ⇒ 100 000 articles
     AND Safety ⇒ 10 000 articles
          AND Nursing OR Nurses ⇒ 2500 articles

Example searches

Start with a simple search (e.g. one word) and modify it as needed. Your search does not necessarily have to contain as many words as these examples do!


rehabilitation AND “occupational health” AND (quality OR standards)

"social workers" AND (multiprofessional OR multidisciplinary)

(nursing OR nurses) AND (preceptorship OR mentorship) AND "intensive care"

eccentric AND (training OR exercise) AND achilles AND tendinopathy

(youth OR teen* OR adolescen* OR young people) AND (substance abuse OR alcohol* OR drug*)

(aged OR elderly OR older people OR geriatric) AND (home health care OR home care) AND (patient-centered OR client-centered OR user-centered)

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