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University of Southern Maine
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NUR 604: Nursing Research: Search Operators

Search Operators



Purpose: Allows you to specify how you want your search terms combined. Used for all Databases.


When terms are combined with the OR operator, your records will contain one or more of the search terms. The terms may occur anywhere in the record. Sets of terms may be combined in addition to single terms.

Multiple OR operators can be used to combine more than two terms. Records must contain at least one of the terms to be retrieved.

When terms are combined with the AND operator, retrieved records must contain all terms.
Multiple AND operators may be used to combine more than two terms. Only records containing every term will be retrieved.


NOT finds records containing one term but not another.
The terms may occur anywhere in the record, including the abstracts.

Note The NOT operator excludes some records, which contain the desired search term. Do not use unless you are confident that the excluded term will not eliminate relevant records. For example, education not patient education retrieves records of which the title contains only the term education and not the term patient education

Combining the AND plus the OR operators will retrieve records in both combinations. In this example the word pairs renal & failure, or the paired terms kidney & failure, or all three terms, are searched. Use parentheses to specify the proper combination.

                                                                                                                                                                                    TRUNCATION OPERATORS

Purpose: To search the variations of a word stem.

Type an asterisk following a word stem to retrieve a variety of word endings.

Example: searching prevent * retrieves records with the terms prevent, prevents, preventing, prevention, and preventative.


Purpose: Use to locate terms within a specified distance of each other.

NEAR (N) and WITH (W) Operators

Similar to ADJ operator. Use to retrieve records that contain search terms within a specified number of words in any order. Type N or W and a number (to specify the number of words).

Use NEAR to search if it does not matter which word appears first.

Use WITH to specify that your terms must be in the same order in which they are entered.

Example: typing theories n1 nursing would retrieve records that contain the word nursing and the word theories either next to each other or with one word separating them. It would pick up nursing theories, theories of nursing, nursing practice theories, etc.

Example: typing nursing w1 theories would search for records where the word nursing is listed first, followed by the word theories, and where no more than one word separates the two terms. It would retrieve nursing theories and nursing practice theories, but not theories of nursing.



Purpose: Use the wildcard to create searches where there are unknown characters or multiple spellings.

Wildcard Symbol = (?)

To use a wildcard, enter your search term and replace the unknown character with a symbol.

Use ? within or at the end of a query word to substitute for one character. Two characters are needed before the symbol.
Example: type behavio?r to retrieve records with the words behavior and behaviour.



Purpose: Use to specify the field (record part) where you would like to find your terms.

Note: The techniques for searching record parts and field codes vary with each database. Most use a two-character abbreviation, e.g., au= author, ti = title etc.

For more information on which searchable fields are available in Cinahl/Medline and their label definitions, on the Choose Database Screen, click the More Information link for the database.

Example: For CINAHL/MEDLINE, click the arrow adjacent to Select a Field (optional). Select au, ti, or any other desired field.

Example: For COCHRANE LIBRARY, click the arrow adjacent to Search all Text and select desired field.