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Veterinary Nursing: Searching Skills

Boolean Searching

Use Boolean Operators to build your search and link your search terms.


OR = more

You can use OR to expand a search and combine terms.

This means that any of the terms you specify can appear in your results.

Image showing a boolean operator search using OR


AND reduces a search by requiring all terms to appear in our results.

To add topics together use AND between the keywords

An image showing a boolean operator search using AND

A quick introduction to keywords

Search for a phrase

  • To ensure that words always appear together as a phrase, enclose with “quotation marks” e.g. “human computer interaction"

A quick introduction to literature searching

Thanks to my colleague Linda Pearson for creating this video and the one on using keywords.

Literature search planning worksheet

Before you start your literature search...

Use the worksheet below to plan your strategy

Planning your literature search in this way should help you work in a more systematic fashion and will provide you with a record of what you have done for when you write up your research methods

Literature Searches

A literature search is a organised and comprehensive search for information. This information will inform, underpin and /or shape your research. 

A literature search will enable you to find out what has already been written in your subject area and identify the main trends. 

The information may be found in books, journal articles, reports, case studies, policy documents, conference proceedings etc.

Understanding Research Methodologies

Academic sources

  • In order to find information on a specified subject which comes from academic sources such as University websites, include +ac (British) or +edu (USA) to your search e.g. "project management" +ac 

Exclude words/topics

  • To exclude topics which are irrelevant or not wanted use NOT between the words e.g. Computer games NOT video
  • A minus sign (-) can also be used to exclude a term when searching the Internet e.g. to find information on Apple computers and not apples (fruit), enter Apple -fruit

Useful Training Links

Critical Appraisal

Critical Appraisal is the process of assessing and interpreting evidence by systematically considering its validity, results and relevance.

The following resources provide a useful introduction to this process:

Wildcard searching *

Some databases allow you to broaden your search by using the stem of a word and an asterisk* to find variant endings e.g. Comput* (this will find computers, computer, computing, computerisation, computation etc)

This is called a "Wildcard" search. Check the Help function of the database you are using to see if it is supported.

Using brackets allows you to perform quite sophisticated searches. This is especially relevant to internet searching. Using brackets allows you to combine a selection of Boolean Operators together.