Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Systematic Reviews

Advance searching databases

There are features on databases or eResources that will make your searches more productive.  Investigate them for your resource.

Check out:

  • Advance searching - use the fields to make your search more precise - eg author field, subject field, txt (text) field, etc
  • Use the thesaurus or MESH headings to find the best terms to search
  • Filtering  your search by date (bear in mind your stated inclusion/exclusion criteria)
  • Filtering your search by language
  • Filtering your search by publication
  • Filtering your search by country of publication
  • Peer review!

Do not filter by full-text - you can get articles via inter-library loan where the library does not have them in the collection

Create a personal account on the eResource (database) where you can save your search results, searches and set up search alerts to let you know when new articles are added.  (Create a separate spreadsheet for backup- though!).

Create a RefWorks account and export your results to it. 

Your information librarian will be able to advise with all of these points.

Tips and Tricks for searching

The table below outlines some of the more useful tools on the two most commonly used platforms that can be used to get better results when searching.  If you are using a different platform, check the help files.  



Phrase Searching

Double quotation marks (i.e. "global warming") the search engine looks for words in the exact order in any field.



su.exact("nursing education”)


will only find “nursing eduction” in the subject field not

“nursing education funding”


Quote marks can be used in general searching for phrases without specifying the field. 




Near Operator (N): N5 finds the words if they are a maximum of five words apart from one another, regardless of the order in which they appear.

Within Operator (W): W8 finds the words if they are within eight words of one another, in the order in which you entered them


NEAR/n or N/n


Replace n with a number. Works regardless of word order.


Used alone, NEAR defaults to NEAR/4.

Important to know: When you shorten NEAR to N, you must provide a number. For example, internet N/3 media.


PRE/n or P/n or 

Look for documents that contain one search term that appears within a specified number of words before a second term.


Replace ‘n’ with a number

A hyphen (-) joining two terms within a search is equivalent to PRE/0 or P/0.



asterisk (*) wildcard, also known as the truncation wildcard, is generally used to find word endings. Enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with the asterisk (*)


Asterisk (*) – used to find word endings


Nurs[*2] will look for words with only two more letters.


Can combine “” and *


# wildcard, enter your search terms and place # where an alternate spelling might contain an extra character. For example, type colo#r to find all records containing color or colour. Type p#ediatric to find all records with pediatric or paediatric

the ? wildcard, enter your search terms and replace the unknown character with a ? (doesn’t work where it could be interpreted as question – at the end of the word)

Wildcards can be combined behavio#r*


Wildcards are not allowed as the first character in a search term.

If there is only leading one  character before a wildcard then, there must be at least one additional literal character within the first four characters.

f#r* (allowed because two literal characters are within the first four characters)

When using any wildcard in a search term, the plural or possessive forms and any synonyms for the word will not automatically be searched. For example; when searching for colo#r the plural words "colors" and "colours" are not searched.






The question mark symbol ?

used to replace any single character, either inside or at the right end of the word. 


One single ? will retrieve only one more character.  Multiple ? will retrieve the corresponding number of characters.