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NUTR 10 Pecchenino: How Do I Search in Databases?


Brainstorm 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 of interest.
  • Come up with synonyms or related terms for those.
  • Stick to using 2-4 (mostly) nouns when searching.

Connect Keywords with Boolean Operators

Operator Example
AND joins dissimilar terms. It helps narrow your search. keto AND "weight loss"
OR joins similar terms. It helps broaden your search.

"keto diet" OR "ketogenic diet"

Use AND & OR together, as well.

"keto diet" OR "ketogenic diet"

AND "weight loss"

Find Phrases with Quotation Marks

  • “nutritional value”
  • “vegetarian diet”
  • "blood sugar"

Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies

Sarah Clark (3:04)

How to Choose Keywords

McMaster Libraries (2:42)

Find Different Word Variations with Truncation

The asterisk * is the most common truncation symbol.

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

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

  • diet* = diet, diets, dietary, dietetics, dietitian, etc.

Take Advantage of Database Functionality

Just like Amazon has filters to limit your results (for example, by price), there are many ways you can limit your search results within a library database: 

  • date (e.g., 2003-2019)
  • type of source (e.g., news articles, magazine articles, academic journal articles, etc.)
    • many have a peer-reviewed limiter
  • full-text  (i.e., restricts results to articles you can read right away)
  • ...and more!

Examples of limiters from the database CINAHL