It is easier to search when your topic is clearly defined.
First, brainstorm, mindmap or talk it over with someone. If it's a new area, you'll need to define terms and do some background reading to understand the subject.
Then, try to express your topic in a sentence or two. Writing helps to clarify; use full sentences, not dot points, as they are complete thoughts.
If your topic isn't fixed (such as an essay question), it's likely to change or become more specific as you read and your ideas develop.
This is a keyword search strategy. The most comprehensive search is a combined keyword and subject heading search.
Consider your initial search strategy to be a first draft. Use it to search a database, check the results, then adjust the strategy as needed. You may produce a number of drafts before the search strategy is in its final form.
Your search strategy will need to be modified for each database. See the database search tips to faciliate this translation process.
If you retrieve too many results:
If you retrieve too few results:
Use Search to discover books, articles, journals, databases and more!
A single search will return results from a number of different sources including:
Click below to access the Search Library Guide for more information on using Search
Key health databases such as Medline (PubMed), CINAHL and PsycINFO use subject headings, a controlled vocabulary, to describe the content of the publications they index.
These resources explain subject headings:
Principles of MEDLINE Subject Indexing (U.S National Library of Medicine)
The Basics of Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®) in MEDLINE®/PubMed® (U.S National Library of Medicine)
Read a recent review article for an overview of the topic and to identify useful references.
To find a review article, limit your search to publication type 'review'.
(The publication type may vary across databases)
Most disciplines have quality review journals, such as the Clinics of North America series.