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NUR 700: Immersion to the DNP Program

For the online immersion DNP course.

Lesson: Search Strategies

In this lesson you will learn how to utilize a variety of search strategies to effectively locate and retrieve information on your topic.  You will:

  1. Watch the "Boolean Operators" video.
  2. Review the "How Search Strategies Work" chart which explains the various search strategies including Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT), phrases, and truncation.
  3. Watch the "Search Strategies in Action" video.
  4. Review the "Keywords vs. Subject Terms" chart.
  5. Watch the "Using CINAHL Headings" video.

Search Strategies

Using Boolean Operators


How Search Strategies Work 


Search Strategy

What it does



(Boolean Operator)

All terms must appear

Narrows your search

Fewer results

Use to include multiple unique concepts

“coffee AND Brazil” searches for all articles that include both terms, coffee and Brazil


(Boolean Operator)

Either term may appear

Broadens your search

More results

Use for related concepts

“coffee OR caffeine” searches for either term in the articles


(Boolean Operator)

Removes a term from your search

Narrows your search

Fewer results

Use for concepts you do not want to include

“South America NOT Brazil” searches for articles on South America and removes articles with the word Brazil in them


Search for exact phrases

Narrows your search

Fewer results

“ecological tourism” searches for that phrase in that particular order


Searches for all forms of a word

Broadens your search

More results

Use to search for the root word of a concept

Add an asterisk * to the root or stem of a word

A search for “tour*” will look for tour, tourism, tourist


Search Strategies in Action

Keywords vs. Subject Terms


Keyword Searching

Subject Searching


Natural language (YOUR language)

Pre-defined "controlled" vocabulary (database language)

Familiarity/ease of use

Familiar & easy to use:  great way to start your research

Not always intuitive:  pre-defined terms are used to describe ideas, concepts, objects, activities, classes of people, academic subjects, etc.

How searches work

Searches for keywords anywhere in the record:  keywords are not necessarily connected in a meaningful way resulting in sources that may not be relevant

Searches for specific pre-defined terms only in the subject heading or descriptor field limiting your results to the most relevant sources


Very flexible:  can combine together in many ways

Less flexible:  need to know the exact controlled vocabulary term

Number of results

Often yields too many or too few results

Due to its precision it will typically give you far fewer results than a keyword search


May yield many irrelevant results

Results are usually very relevant to topic