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Search Strategies for Nursing

This guide will show you different ways to search to find the most relevant results.

Method 1: Creating a search strategy from the PICO question.

Method 1:  Creating a Search Strategy from your PICO Question

Identify the details of your topic in order to compose a question. 

Clinical Question (example): Is handwashing effective in reducing hospital acquired infections?

Questions Example Answers Search Terms
MeSH* Keywords**
(Ex: illness, condition, age, gender, ethnicity)
hospital acquired infection cross infection nosocomial infection
(Ex: medication, diet, activity, or method)
handwashing hand disinfection   hand sanitation
Are you making a COMPARISON 
(Ex: alternate treatment, medication, or method)

What is the intended OUTCOME
(Ex: health status, delayed or eliminated illness)

reduced infection see first box see first box


*MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) - set of terms used in biomedical databases to "tag" the subjects contained in articles.

Click here for a tutorial on MeSH

**Keywords - text found in articles or article titles that describe the subject; similar topics; synonyms.

Method 2:  Identifying Key Issues

1.  Highlight keywords and phrases in your research question. These become your key concepts.

Example:  How does violence in the media affect children?

          Concept 1: Violence     Concept 2: Media     Concept 3: Children

2. Brainstorm synonyms for each identified concept.

Concept 1: Violence  ---> aggression 

Concept 1: Media---> television, TV, movies, film

Concept 3:  Children---> adolescents, teenagers, teens, youth, child

3. Use Boolean Operators to connect your terms:

  • AND narrows your search.  Use this connector between each concept.
  • OR broadens your search.  Use this connector between each synonym.

                   Concept 1                                                   Concept 2                                                                     Concept 3

Example:  (violence OR aggression) AND (media OR television OR TV OR movies OR film) AND (children OR adolescents OR teenagers OR teens OR youth OR child) 

4. Enter your terms into the database.