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FSN 584: Lipids, Diet and Cardiovascular Disease: Database Search Tips

Top Tips

Brainstorm Terminology

  • Use database tags (indexing, subject headings, "thesaurus" terms) for search terms.
    PubMed: MeSH (Medical Subject Headings)
  • Special features of MeSH & PubMed:
    • PubMed automatically "explodes" MeSH terms
    • PubMed automatically adds keyword searches of your entered term
    • Use subheadings to find a few, very targeted results
  • No database tags?
    • Connect synonyms with OR
    • Truncate (use a wildcard) to get variations on a word: obes* to find obese, obesity, obesogenic..
    • Try alternative spelling: paediatric as well as pediatric

Booleans: ANDs & ORs

Use AND for more specific results
niacin AND cholesterol
  AND narrows a search, finding only results containing both terms.


Use OR to broaden a search with related terms
niacin OR vitamin B3
  OR expands a search, finding results containing either or both terms.

Image credit: "Logic Gates.svg" by HereToHelp, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, is available via Wikimedia Commons. Nancy R. Curtis cropped images from original graphic, and modified colors to accommodate color vision disabilities.

Limits, Filters, & Facets

Consider using the following limits when a database provides them:

  • English language
  • Publication Year range (if appropriate)

Other limits & filters are available, like Publication Type for review articles.

Use Additional Search Engine Features

Crude but effective measures:

  • Field search: find references listing your search terms in article titles
  • Search by subject or disciplinary facets (if available)

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