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William Osler Health System - Resources for Evidence Based Practice: Effective Database Searching

Evidence-Based Practice Resources

Effective journal databases searching - best practices

Major Steps in a Search

  1.  Create a well-defined question (PICO)
  2.  Gather synonyms and brainstorm
  3.  Develop  a search strategy
  4.  Select database
  5.  Adapt search strategy to database

Construct Search Strategies

Create search by combining concepts with Boolean operators. Use subject terms and keywords in combination.

Boolean Logic Operators:


retrieve items with both concepts/terms

fall AND prevention


retrieve items with either concept/term

fall OR trip OR slip


excludes concepts from results

fall NOT stand


- Identify key concepts and related terms of your topic

- Select subject terms using database controlled vocabulary

- Search each concept individually

- Combine multiple search terms using Boolean operators (AND, OR)

- Refine your results by using limits such as publication date, type, population group, age that will reduce search results

- Remember that searching for specific information can be a complex process