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How do I build an effective search? Descriptive Transcript

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Need help putting together an effective search for your research topic? This video will provide several tips on building effective searches. How do I build an effective search? Title slide.
First write the research question you plan to explore. Be aware that the question may change as your research proceeds and you learn more about the topic. This is a normal part of the process. For our example we will use the question: Does increased use of hand-sanitizer or handwashing by healthcare personnel reduce cross-infection rates in U.S. hospitals? Does increased use of hand-sanitizer or handwashing by healthcare personnel reduce cross-infection rates in U.S. hospitals?
Then identify the key concepts from your research question. These will be the concepts you search for with keywords. Look for the nouns, the people, places, or things in your research question. They'll be the most helpful search terms. In our research question Hand sanitizer, hand-washing, health care personnel, cross infection rates, and U.S. hospitals are the key concepts. Hand sanitizer, hand-washing, health care personnel, cross infection rates, and U.S. hospitals are highlighted in research question.
Then think of synonyms or related terms for the keywords you identified in your research question. For example, other terms for hand washing are hand hygiene, hand sanitizer, and handwashing spelled as one word. Other terms related to health care personnel are physicians, medical personnel, or nurses. Other terms for cross-infection could be disease control, hospital acquired infections or microbial contamination. Keywords are listed horizontally on the slide. Alternate words are listed vertically below each main keyword.
Once you've come up with your list of keywords and related terms, you'll link them with the appropriate Boolean operators. Boolean operators define relationships between search terms and can broaden or narrow your search. There are three operators AND, OR, and NOT.  
You use AND to link search terms for different ideas in your topic. This will help you narrow or focus your results. In this example, we have nurses and hand washing and cross-infection. This tells the database to bring back results that include all of these terms. Nurses AND Hand washing AND cross infection
As you can see from the example database search, searching for nurses has almost two hundred thousand results. Searching for nurses and handwashing reduces the number to under. Linking terms with AND has narrowed our search. Snap shots of searches in an EBSCO database for nurses with 192267 results and nurses AND handwashing with 437 results.
You use OR to link synonyms or related terms. This will broaden your search and tells the database to bring back results that include any of these terms. In this example, we have linked the three related terms of nurses, physicians, and health care personnel with OR. Nurses OR Physicians OR health care personnel
In this sample database search, searching for nurses retrieves about one hundred and ninety thousand results. However, searching for nurses or physicians or health care personnel retrieves over half a million results. Snap shots of searches in an EBSCO database for nurses with 192267 results and nurses OR physicians OR health care personnel with 551882 results.
NOT is used to exclude unrelated terms from your search results. Use NOT sparingly. Our example search for hand-washing, NOT masks would exclude any article about masks that also contain information about handwashing that could be relevant to your research. Handwashing NOT Masks
If you're using multiple boolean operators in your search, please parentheses around search terms linked by OR to ensure that your search is interpreted correctly. For example, hand washing or hand hygiene would be enclosed in parentheses, as would our second group of related terms: nurses or doctors or health care personnel. AND would go in between the two groups of terms enclosed in parentheses. (hand washing OR hand hygiene) AND (nurses OR doctors OR healthcare personnel)
Quotation marks keep phrases together. They tell the database to search for those exact terms in that exact order. Hand hygiene and hand sanitizers would each be enclosed in quotation marks since they are phrases of two words used together. "hand hygiene"
"hand sanitizers"
A search for hand sanitizers without quotes will retrieve materials on hand sanitizers. However, it will also find and retrieve references with the single word hand and the single word sanitizers. For example, materials on hand tools, food sanitizers, hand puppets and car sanitizer may appear in your results list. Using quotation marks will help narrow and focus your search results. In our example, a search for hand sanitizer without quotation marks retrieves four hundred twenty-four results, while the search for hand sanitizer with quotation marks retrieves two hundred forty nine. The results that remain should be more relevant to our search. Snap shots of searches in an EBSCO database for hand sanitizer without quotation marks with 424 results and "hand sanitizer" with quotation marks with 249 results.
Need help? Ask a librarian at library.northeastern.edu/ask Closing Slide: Ask a Librarian library.northeastern.edu/ask