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NR 533: Application of Evidence Based Practice: Databases

Nursing databases

Start with one or two keywords, then combine concepts one at a time.  Do not add limiters (date, article type, etc.) until you're sure your keywords are productive.

  • Databases use Boolean logic, which means you can combine terms using the words AND and OR to explore the literature more strategically. 
  • Use truncation to include variant endings: therap* = therapy OR therapies OR therapeutic
  • Use quotation marks to bind keywords into a phrase like "fetal alcohol syndrome"
  • Use search history or advanced search to review previous searches and combine them to build new ones

Use controlled vocabulary to refine and focus results.  Many articles have standardized descriptive terms assigned to them so you can easily find related articles.

  • MeSH tutorial (Medical Subject Headings 3-minute video)
    • Most health sciences databases offer MeSH search options
    • CINAHL uses Subject Terms instead of MeSH terms
  • Recommended limiters (click "show more" under the date range limiter bar to the left of your results list):
    • Published date: adjust range to limit to past 5 years
    • English language (checkbox)
    • Research article (checkbox)
      • This limiter does not necessarily limit to research study articles, but it does eliminate content that is not research at all (newsletters, book reviews, etc.)
  • Do not overuse limiters! Sometimes they don't do what you think they will do. For example, the "Evidence-Based Practice" limiter in CINAHL eliminates most primary research articles and limits results to a small collection of highly specialized journals.
  • Two ways to select Subject Terms (content-focused controlled vocabulary):
    1. check the box above the search bar and enter keywords, or
    2. find an article by keyword and then click on highlighted Subject Terms in the article's full description
  • Use search history to review and combine searches
  • Recommended limiters (click "show more" under the date range limiter bar to the left of your results list):
    • Published date: adjust range to limit to past 5 years
    • English language (checkbox)
  • Do not overuse limiters!
  • Two ways to select MeSH Terms (content-focused controlled vocabulary):
    1. check the box above the search bar to Suggest Subject Terms and enter keywords, or
    2. find an article by keyword and then click on highlighted MeSH Terms in the article's full description
  • Use search history to review and combine searches
  • everything in Medline is also in PubMed, but PubMed also includes books and other resources from the National Library of Medicine
  • even though there is significant overlap between PubMed and Medline, search results will differ because the databases work differently

Other PubMed tips:

  • Click Advanced under the PubMed search bar to view your search history and combine searches using the search builder
  • PubMed uses automatic term mapping, which means your keywords will be matched to relevant MeSH terms
    • see "Search details" on the right side of your result list to see how PubMed executed your search
  • apply filters on the left side of your result list to narrow results to the past 5 years
    • to limit by language, click "show additional filters," select the checkbox for Languages, and click "Show"
    • then apply the English limiter to your result list by clicking on it

MeSH database via PubMed:  MeSH tutorial

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews is a comprehensive global medical database. If you find a Cochrane Review related to your topic, it can be an excellent resource for identifying helpful articles as well as offering a valuable perspective on the available evidence.

  • Select a topic area to see a list of all Cochrane Reviews on that topic
  • You can also enter keywords in the search bar in the upper right corner

Types of Cochrane Review:

  • Intervention reviews assess the benefits and harms of interventions used in healthcare and health policy.

  • Diagnostic test accuracy reviews assess how well a diagnostic test performs in diagnosing and detecting a particular disease.

  • Methodology reviews address issues relevant to how systematic reviews and clinical trials are conducted and reported.

  • Qualitative reviews synthesize qualitative evidence to address questions on aspects of interventions other than effectiveness.

  • Prognosis reviews address the probable course or future outcome(s) of people with a health problem.

Find Full Text

Find the Full Text

When you're going through your search results, there are a few ways to find the full-text of an article:

PDF Icon

Click on the PDF Full Text link.

Full Text Finder

Click on the Full Text Finder link to connect to the full text where it resides in another resource.

Journal Finder

Don't see a PDF Full Text link or Full Text Finder link? Or perhaps the Full Text Finder link didn't work properly? Try searching for the journal title (i.e. American Journal of Nursing) in Journal Finder.

Article Request

Still can't find the full-text?! Submit an Article Request form. We can often provide full-text access right away. If we can't, we will try to get the article through interlibrary loan (ILL). ILL can sometimes take several days to process, so please allow time when you enter "date needed by."