Population health sciences: Search Strategies

Population health sciences seeks to improve the health of populations and communities in southwest and southside Virginia, the Commonwealth, Central Appalachia, the nation, and beyond by training future public health leaders.

Plan Your Search

  • Brainstorm keywords and phrases for your topic, including synonyms
  • Try out initial searches in a research literature database
  • Adjust your search strategy/ies to get results relevant to your topic
    • Consider comprehensiveness of results
  • Document your information sources, search strategies, and limits/filters used
  • Save your search results in a citation managers
  • Create alerts to get new search results

A useful reading for developing comprehensive searches: "Research Methods for Comprehensive Science Literature Reviews"

A bit of History

A bit of history!
Boolean operators are named for George Boole (1815-1864), an English Mathematician and Philosopher.  Boolean Algebra and Symbolic Logic both derive from his work.  Boole is generally considered the father of modern computer science.  Most electronic indexes (databases) require the use of Boolean operators in parsing search terms, although this is not always apparent.  Boolean search statements are incredibly powerful in retrieving what you need provided 1) the statement is formatted correctly and 2) your choice of search terms is correct for the topic you are researching.  

Search Strategy Builder

Search Strategy Builder

The Search Strategy Builder is a tool designed to teach you how to create a search string using Boolean logic. While it is not a database and is not designed to input a search, you should be able to cut and paste the results into the standard database search boxes.

Write out your research question or topic thesis as a sentence.

  Concept 1 and Concept 2 and Concept 3
Extract the major concepts from your sentence above and enter them here.    

List alternatives for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

Use single words or short phrases.

Find additional terms in abstracts and summaries of the articles, books, and other sources you find during initial searches.

Search terms Search terms Search terms

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Search Strategy Builder created by University of Arizona Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Searching Tips

Rather than typing a full sentence or question into a search box, using Boolean operators can help you create an efficient and effective database search. Try the Search Strategy Builder, which will create searches out of keywords that you supply!

In order to use Boolean operators, you need to know:

Boolean operators

  • AND:  both terms that you connect with AND msut be somehwere in the bibliographic record for that record to be retrieved.  AND narrows a search and retrieves fewer articles

  • OR:  only one of the search terms combined with OR is required for the bibliographic record t5o be retrieved.  OR broadens a search and retrieves more articles

  • NOT:  excludes a particular subset, category, or term.  NOT requires the presence of one search term and the exclusion of another.

Other special symbols: 

Truncation:  A symbol, specific to the search interface, which allows the retrieval of all endings for the specified base word. An asterisk (*) isoften used.  For example, child* would retrieve records with children, childish, and every other word that begins with the root word "child."  

Wildcard:  A symbol, specific to the search interface, which allows the retrieval of various spellings of a word. A questio mark is often used.  For example, wom?n would retrieve records with women or woman.  

Quotation marks: To search for an exact phrase with the words together, in the order you wish to find them, add " " quotation marks around the phrase, such as "physical activity" versus finding an article about physical education and an activity for elementary school students.

 

Example Boolean search statements using symbols:
(Calcium AND milk) NOT goat
child* AND anxiety AND (exercise OR "physical activity")
alcohol AND medication AND (elderly OR aged OR older adults)
alcohol AND "drug interactions" AND (elderly OR aged OR older adults)
alcohol AND ("medication interactions" OR "drug interactions") AND (elderly OR aged OR older adults)
alcohol AND (medication interactions OR "drug interactions") AND (elderly OR aged OR older adults)
clostridium difficile AND malnutrition AND (elderly OR aged OR older adults)
clostridium difficile AND (nutrition OR diet OR malnutrition) AND (elderly OR aged OR older adults)

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Kiri DeBose
Contact:
Vet Med Library
245 Duck Pond Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-0495