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Licensed Vocational Nursing: Database Search Strategies

Use *PICOT Keywords

The words you type into the search box affect your search results. Not all authors use the same language to describe similar topics, so you will need to try a variety of searches.

  • Create a list of possible words that could appear in a book or article related to your topic.
  • Come up with synonyms or related terms for those.
  • Stick to using 2-4 words when searching.

When looking for scholarly literature related to the health sciences, it can be helpful to include some of the following to narrow your search results:

  • a particular population (i.e., young adults)
  • intervention / treatment or issue of interest (i.e., nicotine patch)
  • health outcome (i.e., smoking cessation)

*PICOT is an acronym for five key components to a clinical research question: population, intervention, comparison, outcome, and time.

Find Phrases with Quotation Marks

  • allergy-induced asthma
  • “postpartum depression" 
  • "eating disorders"

Connect Keywords with Boolean Operators

Operator Example
AND joins dissimilar terms. It helps narrow your search. asthma AND children
OR joins similar terms. It helps broaden your search.

anorexia OR bulimia 

Use AND & OR together, as well.

(anorexia OR bulimia) AND adolescents

Look for Variations of Words with Truncation

The asterisk * is the most common truncation symbol.

  • child* = child, children, childhood, etc.

You do have to be careful with truncation. Sometimes you might get unexpected results.

  • tech* = tech, technology, technologies, technical, technically, etc.

Sample Research Question & Keywords

Pull Keywords from Your Research Question

  • Issue: asthma 
  • Population: elementary school students
  • Research question: What are some interventions that school nurses can use to help elementary school students who have asthma?

Sample Keyword Searches

  • intervention* AND "school nurse*" AND asthma
  • management AND AND "school nurse*" AND asthma
  • "school nurse*" AND asthma AND ("US" OR "United States")

How to Choose Keywords

McMaster Libraries (2:42)

Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies

Sarah Clark (3:04)