Several search techniques are common to a variety of licensed databases - subject headings, truncation, Boolean operators, and limits. Depending on your topic, there may also be search filters available to apply to one or more databases. See these Medline OvidSP tutorials (from UBC) for an overview. You may find it helpful to use a table in Word or Excel to track the subject headings and keywords you've used for concepts. Also, most licensed databases include an option to save your search history, and to set up email alerts when new articles are found on your topic.
|PsychINFO||Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms|
|Scopus & Web of Science||N/A|
To ensure you are conducting a comprehensive literature search, you should search using a combination of keywords as well as subject headings. Some databases have subject headings and some you have to search using keywords. A useful technique to utilize in keyword searching is truncation (or wildcards). This is when you use a character at the end or within a word to search for different spellings. Many databases use * as the truncation symbol.
|*||Find alternate endings||
hosp* [will find hospital, hospitals, hospitalist, hospice, hospices, etc.]
|.tw.||Search for this term in the Title & Abstract fields||
|ADJ||Search for one term within x number of terms from another||patient adj3 anxiety [will find patient within three words of anxiety]|
|AND||Find articles where both terms appear||
smoking AND cessation
|OR||Find articles where either term appears||
smoking OR tobacco
|()||Control order of operations - commands within brackets run first||
(smok* OR tobacco).tw.
Most databases include various limiters. These usually qualify human characteristics such as gender, ethnicity or age or publication characteristics such as language, publication date, or type of publication.
A few useful ones in MEDLINE include human; English language; review article; male or female; and limits for various age groups.
Boolean operators are useful for combining subject headings and keywords.
AND, OR, NOT are the Boolean operators to use to combine searches
image from http://uksourcers.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Boolean-Ven.jpg
NOT is another operator which will find one concept while excluding another. Use with caution because you may exclude relevant articles this way.