Retrieving too few articles? Below are ways to expand (broaden) your search:
Harvest added search terms (synonyms for one or more of your search terms) by viewing the records retrieved in your initial search.
For example, a search for health care reform may retrieve citations described with added terms you can "harvest" for an expanded search:
- 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. Each database has an online thesaurus of controlled vocabulary terms.
- In CINAHL, use the CINAHL Headings link to explore the tree structure of terms; EXPLODE to include narrower terms
- In PubMed, do a search using the MESH dropdown option; explore the tree structure of terms; using a broader term automatically EXPLODES to include narrower terms
- In PsycINFO, click on Search Tools, Thesaurus; explore the tree structure of terms; EXPLODE to include narrower terms
Truncate one or more of your search terms
Truncation symbols in a database, such as "*" or "?" allow you to search on a root word and include plurals. For example:
- Diab* (to retrieve diabetes, diabetic, diabetogenic)
- Autis* (to retrieve autism, autistic)
- Nurs* (to retrieve nurse, nurses, nursing, etc.)
Warning! Truncation may also retrieve false hits. A search on nurs* retrieves “nursery school”
"Citation pearl growing" uses a relevant source to lead to more sources on a topic.
Look 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. Look at the categories of Systematic Reviews, Critically Appraised Topics, Critically Appraised Articles.