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Searching for evidence: Online help

LKC Searching for evidence guide includes literature searching & reviews, evidence based practice resources and research support

EbscoHost databases

CKN provides access to CINAHL, ERIC, Health Policy Reference Center, Medline, PsycINFO, SocINDEX via the EbscoHost platform.

For assistance with advanced searching techniques, contact LKC.

Embase (Elsevier)

Basic Searching in Embase (University of Michigan USA)

Searching databases and content

Many of the general health or medical databases can still be used for specific discipline content, eg Medline, PubMed, AustHealth.

See each tab on our Resources for your specialty for more information.

We suggest Medline or PubMed to give a good overview and starting point for your search.

The more comprehensive your search needs to be, the more databases you may need to search. While there is overlap across databases, each may have unique content.

Contact LKC if you need help with CKN, specific resources or databases.

If you need to be comprehensive in your searching (ie research, masters studies, case reports, etc), you will probably need to search more than one database.

You can search a number of EBSCO databases simultaneously; but take care when using subject headings.

In Ebsco, select Choose Databases; then select Ebsco databases to search simultaneously.

You can use Discover CKN to search most CKN databases at the same time. The search results are relevance ranked and they can be refined (limited). Note, not all databases are searched with Discover CKN, eg Embase - check your results.

Consider if you need to include 'grey literature' in your search - eg resources like reports, conference papers, unpublished research, etc.

See the following guides for assistance on how to search for grey literature.

Search engines look so different!

Different vendors will have search engines that look different and behave slightly differently.

However, most have some common features - eg advanced searching using AND / OR, subject / thesaurus searching, refine / limit results (by year, language, age group, etc).

Check the user guides for each database vendor or platform for more assistance. Contact the LKC for training.

Use CKN to search for full text - because you have access to more full text information (paid for by Queensland Health).

We suggest you only limit to full text at the end of your search. That way you won't miss other useful references that you can get via the Library.

Searching via the internet (Google Scholar & PubMed) will only provide you with open access, free full text content. Most Journal access is via paid subscriptions.

See the infographic below for information on how to find articles using CKN. Or request copy of the article or publication via the LKC.

Tips for effective database searching

  • Formulate an answerable question
  • Plan your search and then test the search strategy
  • Think about search terms and subjects, related topics and synonyms
  • Use a step by step approach to track results and enable changes as you go
  • We recommend using both keywords and subject headings (or MeSH)
  • Book into a Searching databases session or an appointment with LKC

Understand the difference between using AND or OR to connect separate keywords / subjects or search statements.

These connecting words are referred to as "Boolean operators".

NOT is also another Boolean operator - it's used to exclude terms (eg Sexually transmitted diseases NOT HIV OR AIDS)

Other operators relate to proximity, eg NEAR or ADJacent (indicates the terms need to be in close proximity to one another).

When using keywords to search, remember that keywords are terms found anywhere in the database record.

Consider your keywords and how you will search them. For example:

  • American vs British spelling
  • Different word endings like singular vs plural
  • Different words for the same concept (eg teens, adolescents, youths)
  • Use truncation (*) or wild cards (?) to retrieve alternatives : eg child* (for child / children / child's etc) OR wom?m (women or woman) OR p#ediatrics (British vs American spelling)
  • For phrase searching use quote marks, eg "chest pain" or "shortness of breath"
    • Use single quote marks for 'phrase searching' in EMBASE
    • Do not use quote marks if searching SAI Global standards database
  • Spell acronyms or abbreviations in full

Subject headings may be added to a database record (called subject indexing).

Subject headings may also be referred to as "subject terms",  "descriptors" or "thesaurus terms" in different databases.

When you select subject headings the system will find any records that have matching headings.

Not all records in the database will have subject headings assigned. We recommend that you also include keywords in your search.

Consider using the "mapping" or "suggest subject" features within databases to find subject headings, eg Medical Subject Headings (MeSH).

Note: subject headings may change between databases to reflect the discipline or specialty.

You can rerun previous searches across EBSCO databases. If you rerun a search and get zero (0) results, check the subject headings for the specific database.

PubMed searching

Contact us

LKC Library is operating under COVID-19 restrictions.
We are available 8.30am-4.30pm, Mon-Fri. Closed weekends & public holidays.

Point of care tools (products) help

BMJ Best Practice tutorial for clinicians


ClinicalKey Overview - Elsevier Health (International)


DynaMed Plus (Ebsco) tutorial

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