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HLTH 200-1: Peer Health Training

Spring 2022

Advanced Searches

Using advanced search techniques helps refine a search.  You'll be able to control the results and get more relevant results.

Most databases have an Advanced Search area where you can build your search using fields.  The image below shows the Advanced Search in CINAHL (EBSCO).  The advanced search screens of other databases will be very similar.

Search Operators

Note that not all databases use the same symbols and that PubMed does not use wildcards.

Truncation Symbol (an asterisk in most databases): Using a truncation symbol lets you search for various spellings of a word. Use the root of the word with the truncation symbol at the end.


Finds pharmacology, pharmacy, pharmaceutical, etc.

Phrase searching (quotation marks): Searching for terms as a phrase is helpful if words are common used.

health care reform

instead of

health AND care AND reform

Wildcard character: A wildcard character can be used to substitute a character or characters, such as American/British spelling variations.  Wildcard symbols are often # or ?.


Finds woman or women


Finds hemodialysis or haemodialysis

Proximity Operators: Also called adjacency operators, allow you to define how closely you want your search terms to be found in relation to another.  Not all databases have this capability and not all of them use the same operators.  Check each databases About info for details.

Field Tags

Each database has different search operators.  In PubMed, you can use these:

[ti] to find the word in a title [ti] / or title and abstract [tiab]

holy water”[tiab]

[au] finds author [au]


Searching for “holy water”[ti] AND Kirschner[au] =

Holy springs and holy water: Underestimated sources of illness? Kirschner AK.  J Water Health. 2012 Sep; 10(3): 349-57. 

Use [tw] for Text Word to ask PubMed to turn off automatic term mapping and find what you want it to find.

“flu vaccine*”[tw]



Next, we'll build a final search strategy using all the techniques from the previous pages.