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Library Resources for MSN Students: Making your search strategy

This guide provides information on how best to utilize library resources throughout your MSN program at the College of Nursing.

From Concept Table to Search Strategy

Example concept table with Boolean operators and grouping mark-up

The image above offers a visual description of what we do when we transform our concept table into a search strategy.

  • First, the red parentheses indicate individual concept groups. So:

(all words related to Concept 1), (all words related to Concept 2), (all words related to Concept 3)

  • Next, use OR in between all of your synonyms and related terms within each concept group. So:

(Synonym OR Related term)

  • Finally, use AND between all of your individual concept groups. So:

(Concept 1 Synonym OR Related term)


(Concept 2 Synonym OR Related term)


(Concept 3 Synonym OR Related term)

Tip: use double quotation marks (" ") around search terms of more than one word. So, instead of searching for nursing personnel, search for "nursing personnel". This commands the database to keep your words together as a single unit.

Using the example search topic from above, the concept table becomes the following:

Example search strategy with Boolean operators and grouping mark-up

In the database, it looks like this:

(Nurse OR Nurses OR "Nursing personnel") AND ("Health literacy") AND (Rural OR "Rural areas" OR "Rural health centers" OR "Rural population" OR "Rural populations" OR "Rural health nursing" OR "Underserved populations")

Note: in the videos above, I describe how to create an advanced search using something called "controlled vocabulary." For more information how to use controlled vocabulary in your search, see the Research Guides for DNP and PhD Students. Otherwise, you can skip that step for now.

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