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Planning a Database Search

Planning a search is a combination of problem-solving skills and basic technical skills. This guide takes you through the basic steps that will help you plan an efficient and effective search.

Too Many Results

If you get too many results you could try adjusting your search strategy using these techniques: 

  1. Use fewer keywords Using too many keywords can distort your search. List your keywords in order of importance and eliminate your least important.
  2. Add in another concept For example, if prehospital and fall* find too many results you could add in an additional concept, such as older people, to further limit your search results.
  3. Use Proximity Commands adj  Consider using the Proximity command to limit the space between words e.g. tele* adj3  triage* 
  4. Use the Thesaurus Look for terms in the Thesaurus that match your keywords.
  5. Search In Field Search for words in a specific  field, e.g. Title
  6. Apply Limits to your search Manage your search results by applying limits, e.g. Date 
  7. Eliminate truncation Consider eliminating truncation where it is finding too many irrelevant results.


Too Few Results

If you get too few results you could try these techniques: 

  1. Add in more keywords Using too few keywords may mean that you are missing articles. Adding in more keywords will increase the number of articles you find.
  2. Take out your least favoured concept List your concepts in order of importance to your search and eliminate the least important.
  3. Eliminate or relax Proximity Commands adj If you are using Proximity commands relax or eliminate them e.g. use tele* AND triage* instead of tele* adj3  triage*
  4. Search for your terms free text  If you are using terms from the Thesaurus consider searching for them in Any Field or the Title and Abstract field.
  5. Search anywhere Search for words in more fields or Any Field
  6. Eliminate or relax limits Eliminating or relaxing  Limits e.g. remove or extend the date range.
  7. Use Truncation Consider applying Truncation to keywords where appropriate.