Science Writing & Research Workshop

Workshop Overview

Workshop Overview

Science Writing & Research Workshop - Advanced Database Searching

Advanced Database Searching
Wednesday, October 12, 2016, 11:00 - 11:30 am
Academic Success Center

In this workshop, you will learn:

  • some general tips on how to search all databases,
  • how to find what you need in PubMed using limiters and searching using MeSH terms, and
  • how to find articles in Web of Science using cited reference searching.

General Database Tips

General Database Tips

Science Writing & Research Workshop - General Database Tips

The following are tips you can use when searching practically any database.

1) Make sure to log in through the library website to access the databases.

2) Search by keywords, not sentences/long phrases:

How do dogs process language?   dogs AND "language processing"

3) Brainstorm synonyms for your keyterms -- think about the words the authors would use:

  • dogs --> canines
  • language processing --> lexical processing

4) Learn "database language":

(dogs OR canines) AND ("lexical processing" OR "language processing") AND communicat*​

AND combine different concepts
OR combine related concepts/synonyms
quotation marks (" ") keep phrases together (ex. "metabolic disease", "climate change", "gymnogyps californianus")
asterisk (*) search word variants (ex. adolescen* will find adolescent, adolescents, adolescence)

5) Use advanced searching and limits:

See what is available to you that will allow you to quickly narrow down the number results.



Science Writing & Research Workshop - PubMed

PubMed is one of the premier article databases used in the health sciences. Follow these tips to become a more effective PubMed searcher:

1) Limiting your search

To limit your search in PubMed, first conduct a search on the homepage and then look at the menu on the left-hand side of the page. Some useful limits are article typespeciessexages, and more.

2) Using MeSH

MeSH stands for "Medical Subject Headings". These subject terms will allow you to find articles that are about a certain topic even if they don't use those exact words in the article. Learning how to use MeSH will help you to become a much more precise and efficient searcher.

Some basic tips:

  • If you have found an article you're interested in, scroll down below the abstract and click on the link for "Publication Types, MeSH Terms, and Substances". 
    • Click on the MeSH Terms of interest to add to your search. 
    • The terms with an asterisk next to them mean that they are a "major" term, so the articles you find will have that term as a major concept.
  • On the PubMed homepage, select "MeSH" from the drop-down menu next to the search box. Enter your search term to see which term PubMed prefers. 
    • For instance, if you search for the term heart attack, PubMed will suggest that you search for the term myocardial infarction instead.
    • If desired, select subheadings. For instance, drug therapy or genetics.
    • On the right hand side, click "add to search builder". 
    • Click search, or continue searching MeSH headings to add more terms to your search.

3) Additional Resources

Web of Science

Web of Science

Science Writing & Research Workshop - WoS

Web of Science is a powerful tool that can help you find cited references -- articles that are related to an article you have already but that are newer than your original article of interest.

Tips on using Web of Science:

1) Find newer articles on a topic.

Find an article of interest, then click on the link that says "X Times Cited" -- this will take you to newer articles that cite your original article. 

2) Sort your results by Times Cited.

After conducting a keyword search, sort by "Times Cited -- highest to lowest". This will help you to find the most highly cited articles on your topic.

3) Use limits

After conducting a search, use the limits on the left hand side of the page to help narrow down your results.

Need Help?

Talitha Matlin

STEM Librarian
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