Tips for getting what you need
Library databases are not very smart. If you enter a
word in the test box, the database will only find that word
if it appears exactly the same as how you type it (for
example, if you type nursing but the citation has the word
nurses, the database will not find it). After the database
searches, it will give you a list off all the citations it
found that included your word.
What is a citation? A citation includes bibliographic
information (the information that appears in works cited
pages); it may also include an abstract (short summary)
and/or descriptive terms.
Title: The use and evaluation of search databases by
professional nurses: a case study.
Author(s): Pajarillo E
Source: Electronic Library (ELECTRONIC LIBR), 2001; 19(5):
296-306 (12 ref)
Publication Type: journal article - case study,
questionnaire/scale, research, tables/charts
Major Subjects: Search Engines--Evaluation; Computerized
Literature Searching, End User; Information
Retrieval--Evaluation; Registered Nurses
Minor Subjects: Nurse Attitudes; Female; Search
Engines--Utilization; Information Needs; Interview Guides;
Medline; Graphical User Interface; New York
Abstract: Nurses are constantly faced with information
needs to keep up in the fast pace, ever-changing state of
health and nursing. Information that is available through
advancing computer and technology is oftentimes difficult
and cumbersome to learn and access. This is a case study of
how three nurses used and evaluated three different types
of information search databases in terms of three measure
criteria. The results are useful in guiding nurses to use
these information sources, as well as other database users
with little or no experience in searching such systems.
Insights from the study can also assist system designers
and programmers in future planning and redesigns of these
systems, in order to maximize use and expand the user base
of these search systems.
essential commands for searching library databases
If you are looking for articles in a database, there are
4 essential commands you must know. Since a database
can only do a word search, make sure you pick words that
are important for your topic. Don't enter words like,
"patients, causes, results from, effects". These words come
up in so many citations that they cease to be useful.
Commands (Boolean Operators):
Command 1 = AND
AND Narrows your search. AND retrieves records containing
all of the words you type.
Example: bulimia AND prozac (finds articles that have both
words bulimia and prozac in them)
Command 2 = OR
OR Broadens your search (finds more). OR retrieves records
containing any of the words you types.
Example: bulimia OR anorexia (finds articles that have
either the word bulimia or anorexia in them)
Command 3 = NOT
NOT Narrows your search. NOT eliminates results that
contains the words you type.
Example: eating disorders NOT anorexia (finds articles that
have the words eating disorders in them but do not have
Command 4= Parenthesis
Parentheses let you create complex searches. Put one topic
only in a set of paretheses.
Example: (anorexia OR bulimia) AND (fluoxetine OR
Because parentheses can be tricky, here is another example:
(obesity or overweight) NOT (children OR adolescents)
Examples of what not to do:
how many people are diagnosed with cancer each
Why is this bad? If you type a sentence, the database has
to find that exact sentence in a citation. It is not very
likely that a citation will contain the exact sentence you
What would be better (try to think about what words would
consistently appear in a citation on the topic)? Try:
cancer AND diagnoses AND statistics
effect of sun exposure
Why is this bad? For the same reason, if you type a phrase,
the database has to find that exact phrase.
What would be better? Try: sun exposure AND adverse
Why is this bad? Some citations may say, "injuries
resulting from sports". Our search would miss those. Also,
if the citation presented information on a specific sports
injury, such as hairline fracture, torn ACL, we would not
What would be better? Try: (sport OR sports OR football OR
soccer OR running) AND (injury OR injuries OR torn ACL OR
You could add more sports to the search or other kinds of
The commands AND, OR, NOT, Parentheses, can be used with
great success in any of the library's research
databases. If your search doesn't seem to be working,
try different words. Remember the database will only find a
word if it appears in the citation exactly how you entered
it. Also, look at your search to make sure you haven't
included any unnecessary words. Searching usually takes
several tries. Don't be discouraged if you don't find what
you need the first time.
for help finding nursing information, contact:
to comment on this tutorial, contact: Jill.Livingston@uconn.edu