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Nursing Resources: A Self-Paced Tutorial and Refresher: 2.7 Expanding the Search for Evidence

An online instructional tool to orient users to the NYU virtual environment: books, databases, articles, more.

Tips for EXPANDING your database search results

Retrieving too few articles?  Below are ways to expand (broaden) your search:

  • "Harvest" terms to add to search (synonyms)

    For example, a search for health care reform bill may retrieve citations described with added terms you can use for an expanded search using OR:

    health care reform bill OR health care bill OR "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" OR Affordable Care Act OR PPACA OR Health Care Reform/legislation & jurisprudence [MeSH] OR Obamacare

  • Use the online thesaurus in CINAHL, PubMed or PsycINFO to locate the standard term for your topic.  For example, the standard term for PPACA is: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  • Truncate one or more of your search terms using the database truncation symbol (usually * or ? )
    • Diab* (retrieves: diabetes, diabetic, diabetogenic)
    • Autis* (retrieves: autism, autistic)
    • Nurs* (retrieves: nurse, nurses, nursing, etc.). 
    • Warning! Truncation may also retrieve false hits.  A search on nurs* retrieves  “nursery school.” Diab* retrieves "diabolical."
  • "Citation pearl growing" uses a relevant source (like an article)  to lead to more sources on a topic.
      • Look near the citation for a link to "Related" articles or “Find Similar Results."  Also known as "snowballing."
      • From a relevant article, follow up on citations in the bibliography (the "ancestry" method)
      • Use the "Cited References" feature if available.  More about "cited reference searching" is described here.



  • Try another database.  Often the scope of the database doesn't match your search needs. Review the specialized health sciences databases here.
  • Pre-evaluated, pre-synthesized sources (including “systematic reviews”) aggregate the best evidence for a given topic.  They may appraise the quality of studies and often make recommendations for practice. Go on to the next module to learn about Critically Appraised sources.


Click on the Forward button to go to Module 2.8 

Searching is Iterative