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Health project: Plan your search


There are a number of resources you can consult for your literature review:

Developing a search strategy

Before you start searching the literature, it is important to develop a robust search strategy. This will assist in eliminating irrelevant results.

The following points outline the steps to follow:

  1. Break your topic into concepts; these will translate into keywords
  2. Link your keywords using AND to find only documents containing all your keywords
  3. Think of synonyms for your keywords and link these using OR to find any one of your alternative terms
  4. Think about using truncation (*) to catch all forms of a word (e.g. diet* will search for diet, diets, dieting, dietary, dietician). Think about using wildcards (?) to find alternate spellings of a word (e.g. wom?n will search for women, woman).
  5. If you get too many results, limit your search by adding more keywords linked by AND, think of more specific keywords, or limit by other options e.g. terms in the article title
  6. Look at the subject terms that have been used for a relevant item you have found. These subject terms can be used to search for similar resources

How does boolean searching work?

Boolean operators are terms that help you to either narrow or broaden your searches in library catalogues and databases. They are the words 'AND', 'OR', 'NOT', typed between your search terms.


Narrows your search. Find results containing both of your terms. 

For example, you would find resources containing both apples and oranges.


Broadens your search. Find results containing either one or both of your terms. 

For example, you would find resources containing either apples or oranges, as well as those containing both terms.


Excludes a term from your search. 

For example, you would exclude results containing the term oranges.