Save yourself time & aggravation by thinking about your search for information before you get too far down the primrose path...
1. Choose the right tool for the job
What kind of information do you need? Background information available in a textbook, or the latest primary research available in a journal article?
2. Know thy search engine
What's included in your resource? What's not included? How does it search?
3. Think before you search
Break your topic into concepts. Think about your keywords, synonyms, alternative spellings
4. Searching is an iterative process
There's no one perfect search engine (or one perfect way to get to the information)
Truncation - find all words starting with the letters you have typed. CAUTION: use truncation carefully in PubMed. Truncation turns off the automatic term mapping feature -- try your search without truncation first. Most common truncation symbol is the asterisk * Note: think before you truncate (or, why cat* is a bad idea...)
Ex, obes* = obese, obesity
child* = child, childhood, childlike, children
Wildcard - used to substitute letters inside a word
Ex. wom*n = woman OR women
colo*r = color OR colour
Exact Phrase - use quotation marks around your term to get that exact phrase
Ex. "high fructose corn syrup"
Field Searching - you can search specifically in the title, the abstract (summary), or by author.
Most databases have pull down menus that let you select which field you want to search.
Subject Searching - many databases "tag" or add terms to the articles. The agree-upon, controlled terms used are often called subject heading or descriptors. In PubMed, the terms are called MeSH (Medical Subject Headings). Subject searching allows you to bring similar articles together even if the keywords used are different.
Species Names - when searching the veterinary literature, think about different terminology used for your species
Ex. horse, equine, equus
Your searches will work best in most databases if you break your topic apart and then combine the concepts with AND/OR. This is called Boolean logic and is named after a mathematician
AND - narrows your searches
Ex. Obesity AND Sugared drinks
OR - broadens your searches
Ex. sugared drinks OR sweetened beverages OR soft drink*
Most databases will have pull down boxes where you can select AND or OR.
You can also use these together by using parenthesis.
(obesity OR overweight) AND (sugared drinks OR sweetened beverage* OR soft drink* OR juice OR sports drinks)
The above in pictures
OR - gets all the info from both circles
AND - gets only the info where the circles overlap