USF Shimberg Health Sciences Library

Public Health Library Guide

Searching Tips

Variant Spellings - American and British spellings are oftentimes different, so searching pediatric OR paediatric gives broader coverage.

Synonyms - searching for synonyms will broaden your search, for example,  cancer OR neoplasms OR carcinomas

Quoted Phrases - The use of quotation marks around a phrase such as "end of life" or "stress reduction" assures the words are found together and cuts down on unrelated citations.

Truncation - use of a symbol to search the stem of a word with any ending.  For example, test* would include tests, testing, tested.  Most databases use the asterisk (*)  as the truncation symbol.

Controlled Vocabulary of Specific Databases

  • MeSH (Medical Subject Headings): PubMed and Medline
  • CINAHL Headings: CINAHL
  • Emtree: Embase
  • Thesaurus: PsycInfo

Adjacency  - some databases allow the use of symbols to show nearness or adjacency between words such as N3 or W3.  Check the help files to determine if the database you are searching allows this.

For best results, use a combination of all the search strategies!

Peer-Reviewed or Refereed Articles

Refereed or peer-reviewed articles are reviewed by an editorial board, a committee of academic peers or referees prior to the article being accepted for publication by a journal.  The document is reviewed by the reviewers for content, methodology etc.  Peer-reviewed materials are very significant to the research in most academic fields because they represent reliable scholarship which advances the knowledge in the discipline.

To determine if a journal is peer-reviewed, look up the journal title in Ulrich'sWeb Global Serials Directory and look for the icon of a referee's t-shirt.  If the journal is peer-reviewed, all the articles in the journal are peer-reviewed expect for editorials, books reviews and any other clearly opinion pieces.