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Research Basics Guide: Search Basics

This guide provides details on accessing information for your research at KCU

Search Basics

Here you'll find some quick refreshers of search strategies and tools. If you feel like you need more assistance, librarians are available on both campuses to help you. Check out the About the Library page for contact information for both campuses.

Creating Accounts

Many of KCU library's databases allow you to create a personal account to save your searches and create alerts. If you are using mobile apps like Clinical Key or Clinical Pharmacology, you had to create a personal account for those databases already. Features and benefits of having personal accounts vary by database, but saving searches is a pretty basic feature across the board. 

  • Access Medicine  Lets you save items as "Favorites" and create folders to store them; shows your recently viewed materials; saves review questions; save cases.
  • Clinical Key/Clinical Pharmacology - You only need to create one account to use for both databases. You will need a personal account to verify remote access if you are using the Clinical Key/Pharmacology mobile apps, but it also keeps track of CME, saves content, and has a presentation maker feature. You can also save searches and view your search history.
  • DynaMed - another database with a mobile app that requires verifying remote access, so if you're using this app, you've already created an account. You can follow your searches and get email updates and keep track of CME. 
  • Psychiatry Online - Let's you create alerts for citations as well as keeps track of your favorites and saved searches. 
  • PubMed - There are a lot of tutorials and webinars on PubMed available for free online that cover the features of an NCBI account. A personal NCBI account keeps track of recent searches, saved searches, custom-made filtering options, and collections. You can also create email alerts and change your setting to highlight your search terms in your results. 
  • UpToDate - A personal account keeps track of CME and a search history by date, as well as showing your most frequently viewed articels and any bookmarks you've added. 

Using PubMed and MeSH

Look at the References

Librarian Tip:

One of the easiest ways to find more literature for your research is to look at the references for an article. The articles you will be looking at should come from a scholarly journal with a peer-review process that has checked the references cited and verified that they are also reliable and accurate. Once you have found an article that fits your research needs, browse the references listed at the end and look up any that may also be of use to your research. 

Key Terms

Many academic journals require authors to list Keywords after the abstract. Not all key terms can be used in the title and abstracts of articles, which are what is typically being searched when you run a query through a database. Including keywords offers a backup for terms that may be covered or are crucial to the article, but do not appear in the title or abstract. If your search is returning articles with titles and abstracts that do not appear to be related to your search terms, check out the keywords section. 

Using Operators

Boolean operators are commonly used to narrow or broaden a search. Use the infographic below to determine which Boolean operator you need to use. 

Other types of Operators

Other common operators used in searching are:

  • Author - adding an author to a search can help locate specific materials
  • Exact text phrase (" ") - putting quotation marks around a phrase will search for that exact phrase
  • Date Range - database usually offer a date range option in the FILTER BY sections
  • Wildcard (*) - use this when you are searching for a variety of formats (singular and plural) or various spellings
  • Exclude (-) - use this to filter out specific words. Exclude works similar to the Boolean NOT
  • Related Words (~) - use this to pull results with related words as well as the main search term

Using Citation Tools

Citation tools can be a huge time saver for researchers. Check out the Citations page for a few options. Keep in mind there are plenty of reliable, free tools available online, so don't jump straight to purchasing software until you've tried out the free options. Also be sure the citation tool you are using has the proper citation format. AMA, or the American Medical Association, is the most common format used in medical journals. You probably used APA and MLA in previous works. If you are writing for publication, be sure you are saving your citations in the proper format for the journal.