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Search with Truncation & Wildcards


                                   Truncation symbols image


  • * (asterisk) – (PubMed / CINAHL / ProQuest)
Eg.  mimic* (mimic, mimics, mimicking, etc)
PubMed supports only end-truncation. There is no single character symbol.


  • replaces single character
  • use in middle or end of word
CINAHL = # (pound sign)   Eg. Wom#n
PQ = ? (question mark) E.g. Wom?n
No Wildcard in PubMed


**Symbols are not universal – check database help as needed

Phrase Search

                                                              quotation marks image
Place phrases in Quotations Marks
Eg. “Health expenditures”  or   “intensive care unit” or "Calgary Family Assessment"

CaveatTurns off auto mapping and auto explode in PubMed

Proximity Searching

proximity search symbols

 Use N# to search for words within a given number of words (#) from each other

  • Words can appear in any order

 E.g. reimbursement N/2 insurance (searches for reimbursement within 2 words of insurance)

          tax N/3 reform (tax within 3 words of reform)

Use W# or PRE/n if you want the words in a specific order

•  CINAHL (W) and ProQuest Healthcare Administration (PRE/n) require different search methods
E.g. CINAHL (W) - COVID w/3 protocol
       ProQuest Databases (PRE/3) - COVID PRE/3 protocol
•  PubMed does NOT support proximity searching

Using Boolean Operators


  • Use "AND"  to indicate that all of the search terms must be present in an article. 
  • Great way to get more specific results
  • Example, searching for  "Madonna AND church"  means that articles must contain the word "madonna" and the word "church" to show up in your results. 
    • For example, if the circle on the left represents articles containing the word "Madonna", and the circle on the right includes articles containing the word "church", the shaded area shows the results for a search for "Madonna AND church"

Madonna church



  • Use "OR"  to indicate either of the terms should be included in the results.  Use OR between synonyms or related terms
  • For example, a search for "Madonna OR church" would bring up
    • articles that mention the word "madonna" but do not include the word "church"
    • any articles that include the word "church" but do not include the word "madonna"
    • articles that include both the word "madonna" and the word "church"

Madonna  church



  • Use "NOT" to exclude articles with a different meaning or an unwanted concept
  • For example, if your results include articles on the Virgin Mary or churches named for her, when you are actually looking for articles on the singer Madonna, search for "Madonna NOT church" to exclude them. (Be careful, may also exclude any articles dealing with the relationship between the singer and the church.)

Madonna  church


Expanding Your Search


Not enough (or any) articles on your topic? 

Here are some tips to find more results:

  • Check spelling.
  • Use synonyms or related words

e.g. ethics OR morals OR principles

  • Use truncation
  • Search for broader, less-specific terms
    • E.G. Consider infection control rather than the more specific isolation
  • Expand date range if possible

Narrowing Your Search

       Too many results image

Too many results?  Or results not focused on your topic?

  • Try a subject search instead of a keyword search
  • Limit your keyword search to the abstract or title
  • Try Phrase searching
  • Add terms to your search using the Boolean "AND" operator
  • Try narrowing dates of publication