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Nursing Research Guide

A helpful place to find information on doing research in the Nursing field. This guide is intended to aid in literature searches and looking for other materials in the Nursing and Allied Health fields.

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Nursing Databases

Tips & Tricks

Synonyms can very helpful throughout your investigative and research process. Using synonyms with boolean operators can potentially expand your search. Databases with subject headings or controlled vocabularies like MeSH in PubMed often have a thesaurus that can match you with appropriate terms.

Elderly Geriatrics, Aged
Heart Attack Myocardial Infarction

Boolean operators allow you to manipulate your search.

Use AND to narrow your search

  eg. elderly AND diabetes 

Use OR to broaden your search

  eg. myocardial infarction OR heart attack

Use NOT to exclude terms from your search

  eg. children NOT infants 

Use quotation marks to search for phrases. When you surround your search terms with quotation marks, you are telling the database that the words must appear as an exact phrase. Searching for the terms with no quotation marks gives us results that contain synonyms and MeSH terms.

Use truncation to broaden your search:
In PubMed, the asterisk (*) represents any group of characters, including no character. Use it at the end of the root of your term.
Hawaii* finds:  Hawaii,   Hawaii Island, Hawaiian, Hawaiians,etc.
toxic* finds:  toxic, toxicity, toxicology, etc.

Using PICO to Form the Research Question

PICOTT is a mnemonic used to describe elements of a good clinical foreground question to be directly relevant to the patient or problem at hand. The PICOTT model is used in evidence-based practice to assist in formulation of the search strategy by identifying the key concepts that need to be in the article that can answer the question..


How would you describe a group of patients similar to yours? What are the most important characteristics of the patient?

What main intervention are you considering? What do you want to do with this patient?

What is the main alternative being considered, if any?

What are you trying to accomplish, measure, improve or affect?

Type of Question
Therapy / Diagnosis / Harm / Prognosis / Prevention

Type of Study
Systematic review / RCT / cohort study / case control

Building a Search Strategy

Search Strategy

1) Develop 'answerable question' using PICOT

2) Search one term or concept at a time

3) OR together synonyms

4) AND for joining concepts together

5) Consider limits for publication types, age, human, and evidence-based

6) Critically appraise articles retrieved

7) Revise search if appropriate