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NUR 2510: Evidence-Based Nursing Practice: Search Techniques

How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Operators (AND OR NOT)

This short video from McMaster University will show you how to use AND/OR/NOT to focus and refine your search for better results.

Boolean Operators


  • Focus and narrow results
  • All terms must be found
  • Ex. hypothermia AND lower temperature AND febrile


  • Connect similar concepts
  • Broadens results
  • Ex. heart attack OR myocardial infarction 

Advanced Search Techniques

In this video, you will learn how to format your search query using the modifiers quotes " ", asterisk *, and parenthesis ( ).


Truncation is represented by an asterisk (*). To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *. The databases find all forms of that word.

For example, type teen* to find the words teens or teenager.

Note: The Truncation symbol (*) may also be used between words to match any word.

For example, a midsummer * dream will return results that contain the exact phrase, a midsummer night’s dream.

Wildcard Search

The wildcard is represented by a question mark ? or a pound sign #.

To use the ? wildcard, enter your search terms and replace each unknown character with a ?. EBSCOhost finds all citations of that word with the ? replaced by a letter. 

For example, type ne?t to find all citations containing neat, nest or next. EBSCOhost does not find net because the wildcard replaces a single character.  

Note: When searching for a title that ends in a question mark, the symbol should be removed from the search in order to ensure results will be returned.

To use the # wildcard, enter your search terms, adding the # in places where an alternate spelling may contain an extra character. EBSCOhost finds all citations of the word that appear with or without the extra character.

For example, type colo#r to find all citations containing color or colour.

Proximity Searches

You can use a proximity search to search for two or more words that occur within a specified number of words (or fewer) of each other in the databases. Proximity searching is used with a Keyword or Boolean search.

The proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) and a number (to specify the number of words). The proximity operator is placed between the words that are to be searched, as follows:

Near Operator (N) - N2 finds the words if they are within two words of one another regardless of the order in which they appear.

For example, type literature N2 review to find results that would match literature review as well as review of the literature.

Within Operator (W) - In the following example, W8 finds the words if they are within eight words of one another and in the order in which you entered them.

For example, type tax W8 reform to find results that would match tax reform but would not match reform of income tax.

Note: These operators will not work when parentheses are used to separate search terms. For example: (tax or tariff) N5 reform will not find results. You must use (tax N5 reform) or (tariff N5 reform).

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