Refine your question. A focused well defined question is easier to answer than a general one. The PICO framework can help with this. PICO stands for: P = population, problem; I = Intervention; C = Comparison; O = Outcomes. Answering the questions such as the following will help you focus and refine your question: Who is my population? What is the specific problem? What interventions am I considering? What outcomes do I want measured?
Use multiple databases. There will be overlap in what you find, but each will have something unique. The following are useful for most if not all searches:
Extrapolation is key. Keep in mind that you may have to pull pieces of information from various articles to make your point. You may not – probably won’t – find the perfect article that sums up your position.
Take notes as you go. It’s quite hard to find or document things after the fact. (I’ve found this out the hard way!) So track where you search, the terms you use, and the citations you find as you go. How you track it doesn't matter. Just track it. Also, if an article looks *remotely* useful, make note of it. It’s always easier to cross it off later than try to find it again. (Sometimes you can’t find it again. I’ve learned that the hard way too.)
Using Subject Terms, aka MeSH, and Text Words
Spell out terms. Searching acronyms or abbreviations often means fewer or missed results. For example, searching APN in CINAHL or PubMed returns fewer citations than searching either Advanced Practice Nurses or Advanced Nursing Practice.
Advance Practice Nurses
Clinical Nurse Specialists
Nurse Practitioners +
Acute Care Nurse Practitioners
Adult Nurse Practitioners
Emergency Nurse Practitioners
Family Nurse Practitioners
Gerontologic Nurse Practitioners
OB-GYN Nurse Practitioners
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners +
Neonatal Nurse Practitioners
Look for additional terms to search on in titles, abstracts, assigned subject terms, and full text of articles. You might find that there are additional terms that you can search on. For the global health example, perhaps terms such as Medically Underserved combined with a geographic location might work. Or Public Health combined with a geographic location. Not everyone in a specific specialty or field uses the same terms when writing up articles. Trick is to find the terms that they do use. Once you find the terms, re-do the search.
Check the subject terms used by the database/search engine you are in. Each one has a different focus and can use a different term for the same idea. You can also use this as a way to find additional terms that you can add into your search.
Combining Search Terms
Improve your results by combining your terms with AND, OR, NOT.
Ex. Obesity Stress