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Nursing Research Guide: Brainstorming a Search Using "and"

Brainstorming a Search with Boolean Terms

This page illustrates the use of AND, OR, and NOT that are used to connect words in the CINAHL database.

Boolean terms  - AND, OR, NOT

Most web resources and databases understand Boolean terms. Check the help screens to see if they are accepted.

  • AND - The word AND narrows a search by combining terms and retrieves every document that contains both of the words specified.
  • OR -  The OR word broadens or widens a search to include documents containing either keyword.
    • The OR search is particularly useful when there are several common synonyms for a concept or variant spellings of a word.
      • Example:  caring and incarcerated and (teen* or adolescen* or juvenile)
  • NOT - Combining search terms with the NOT word narrows a search by excluding unwanted words. (This does not always work).
The Venn Diagrams illustrate search results when using the Boolean terms.  The shaded areas represent the search results.

Boolean Diagrams-And, Or, Not

Advanced Search Techniques - Truncation and Phrase Searching

In databases such as CINAHL, you can also use truncation and phrase searching in addition to Boolean operators to help locate the information you need.

Truncation searching involves shortening a word down to its base in order to pick up a variety of the word's potential endings and then adding an asterisk. For example, searching for nurs* (the asterisk is what tells the database this is a truncation search) will return results such as nurse, nursed, nurses, or nursing. This can be used for the root of any word.

Phrase searching uses quotation marks around two or more words to tell the database to lock those words together and only return results with those words in that order. For example, searching for "advanced practice nursing" would only return citations with those three words in that order, whereas a search for advanced practice nursing without quotation marks would return results with those words anywhere in the citation, in any order. Phrase searching is helpful when you know that you want an exact phrase to be returned in all of your results. 

Search samples and suggestions (these combine the use of Boolean operators and phrase/truncation searching):

  • pandemic and anxiety and prevention
  • parental education program and vaccines
  • access to care and social justice and health disparities
  • Interdisciplinary and teamwork and nurs*
  • nurs* and primary care and United States
  • Advanced practice nursing and nursing role
  • Patient safety and hospital
  • medication errors and intervention and (teen* or adolescen* or juvenile)
  • medication errors and intervention and (aged or elder* or geriatric)
  • medication errors and intervention and (united states or pacific northwest or washington state)
  • medication errors and (intervention or prevention)
  • "medication errors" and hand off