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Nursing Information Literacy Program

Search strategies - nursing topics

Search Strategies

When searching for information, there are a number of techniques to use that will help refine your search results.  You can use these strategies when looking for information from the library databases or from a search engine such as Google.

Phrase Searching and Boolean Operators - nursing topics

Phrase Searching

Put quotation marks " " around phrases to search the term as a phrase. Otherwise the database or Google may separate the words.

"evidence based"     "end of life"     "palliative care"     "patient centered"

Boolean Operators

Refine your search results using Boolean operators. The three most common Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT, but there are others available. The operators AND and NOT will narrow your search and OR will usually increase your search results. 

AND - Use AND to find resources with all of your search terms.

“end of life" AND nursing

“end of life” AND Hinduism

diabetes AND "evidence based"


OR - Use OR to find articles with either search term in them.

“end of life" OR "palliative care"

"evidence based" OR "patient centered"

"heath care" OR "medical care"


NOT - Use NOT to eliminate terms you do not want in your search results. 

graffiti NOT "American Graffiti"


Combining Terms - Put parentheses () around the ORs if other Boolean operators are used.     

nursing AND (Jewish OR Israel OR Israeli OR Judaism) AND "end of life"

“college students” AND (“eating disorders” OR anorexia OR bulimia)

preeclampsia AND ("evidence based" OR "patient centered")

Keywords & Subject heading

Try several different search terms and phrases, and take note of useful subjects or descriptors that appear in citations which are on-topic.  Try combining terms with the AND boolean operator to narrow your search. Here are some examples of searches:

  • "evidence based"
  • "best practice"
  • "patient centered"
  • "nursing care"
  • research AND [your topic]

Advanced Search Strategies

Phrase searching

Most of the databases and search engines will AND the words of a phrase together. If you wish to search the term as a phrase, put quotation marks around it to refine your search.

Boolean Operators

One of the easiest ways to refine your search is to use the Boolean operators. The three most common Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT, but there are others available.







Most databases use the asterisk * to truncate words. For example, child* will search for the words child or child’s or children. Another example is listed below.

develop* = develop + develops + development + developmental

Google automatically looks for the singular and plural of a word.

Combining some of the skills together

Some examples:

(nurse OR nursing) AND ("evidence based" OR "patient centered") AND diabetes