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Library Resources for DNP Students: Exploring: ProQuest

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

Vocabulary used on this page...


The database of Subject Terms used in ProQuest.

Subject Terms

Refers to the controlled vocabulary (or official language for the organization of resources) of ProQuest.


Limits and filters allow you to narrow the results down to only the ones that are most relevant. Common limits that are applied include: article type, date, and language.

Tip: the more limits and filters you set, the narrower your results will be. It is possible for you to limit your results all the way down to 0, so be careful.

Tip 2: do not limit by Full Text. As a student of ECU, you can receive the full text of articles either with your PirateID and password, or through our free Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service if ECU does not own a copy of the article. Electronic resources can be e-mailed to your ECU account.

Creating a personal account

Personal accounts in databases are free, and I strongly recommend creating an account for each database you may use. They are particularly valuable when you need to save your searches for longer than your current browsing period. Closing your browser almost always erases your search history; having a personal account allows you to save searches that you may want to look at again later.

To create an account in ProQuest, click on the icon of the person in the top right-hand corner of the page, then click on Sign into My Research in the dropdown menu.

Screenshot of ProQuest home page with arrow pointing to Sign into My Research icon

On the next page, click on Create a My Research account.

Screenshot of ProQuest account creation page

Finally, complete the form that pops up. You also have an option to link your ProQuest account to your RefWorks account. I recommend checking this box because doing so will make citation management a great deal easier if these two accounts are linked.

Advanced searching in ProQuest

Searching the Thesaurus

To fill out the second row of your concept table, you will need to know the controlled vocabulary for each of your concept groups. To search this in ProQuest, you will need to enter into the Thesaurus and then search each concept group individually. To find the Thesaurus, click on Advanced Search in the top bar.

Screenshot of ProQuest main page with arrow pointing to Advanced Search

From this page, click on Thesaurus.

Screenshot of ProQuest Thesaurus link circled on Advanced Search page

Then, locate the ProQuest Thesaurus, and click the hyperlinked text.

Screenshot of ProQuest Thesaurus link circled

Once inside the Thesaurus, you can begin typing the words to describe each concept group individually.

Screenshot of ProQuest Thesaurus search

Select the term or terms that suit your search; if more than one term has been selected, make sure the OR radial has been selected. Click Add to Search.

Screenshot of ProQuest Advanced Search

You will see the command language for ProQuest to identify a search term as a Subject Term. The command language is written as MAINSUBJECT.EXACT(" "). Highlight this entire string, copy and paste into your concept table in your Word document. Repeat this process for all of your concept groups; you do not need to run the searches yet. Instead, after you have pasted the Subject Term into your concept table, you can click on the word Thesaurus and continue to look for Subject Terms.

Building the Advanced Search

My concept table now looks like this after searching the Thesaurus for Subject Terms for all three concept groups:

  Concept 1:
Concept 2:
Health literacy
Concept 3:
Rural areas
Subject Terms MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Nurses") MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Health literacy") MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Rural areas")
MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Rural health care")
Keywords Nurse
"Nursing personnel"
"Health literacy" Rural
"Rural areas"
"Rural health centers"
"Rural population"
"Rural populations"
"Rural health nursing"
"Underserved populations"

In your Word document, combine your Subject Terms row and your keywords row for each concept group using Boolean operators. My search becomes:

(MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Nurses") OR Nurse OR Nurses OR "Nursing personnel")


(MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Health literacy") OR "Health literacy")


(MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Rural areas") OR MAINSUBJECT.EXACT("Rural health care") OR Rural OR "Rural areas" OR "Rural health centers" OR "Rural population" OR "Rural populations" OR "Rural health nursing" OR "Underserved populations")

In order to preserve some flexibility in your search, you will now copy and paste each concept group one at a time into the search bar. You can do this from the Advanced Search screen or the main ProQuest screen. Running searches on each concept group individually will allow you to edit each concept group if necessary, or to change how you will pair your concept groups. Note: ignore the results page each time you run your search; those results are only relevant to the one concept group and are not as focused as your final results will be.

Screenshot of search in Advanced Search screen on ProQuest

After repeating this process for each concept group, now click on Recent Searches from the results page.

Screenshot of recent searches link on ProQuest results page

This will take you to your search history where you can combine your searches using the Boolean operator AND. ProQuest assigns nicknames for each search, so you will need to type each nickname separated by AND. For instance, my search was S1 AND S2 AND S3. Because you may be required to report your search strategy, it is extremely important to keep the prose version of your search in a Word document. Once you have built your combined search, click on Search.

Screenshot of combined searches on ProQuest

To limit your results, select the limits on the left-hand sidebar.

Screenshot of results page on ProQuest

Ask a Librarian

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How to access the article

To access articles that look relevant to you, click on the article title to open the article page. If ECU has access to the full text, you will see an option to download the PDF. If this option does not appear, please complete the Interlibrary Loan request form to have it e-mailed to you.

Screenshot of ProQuest record page with arrow pointing to Download PDF button

How to save articles

If you created a personal ProQuest account, you can save articles by selecting the ones you want to save, and then clicking on Save in the middle column just above the results. When the dropdown menu opens, select Save to My Research. This will put the articles into your My Research folder.

Screenshot of ProQuest results page with arrow pointing to Save button

How to save your search

If you created a personal ProQuest account, you can save your search. Click on Recent Searches above the results on the results page.

Screenshot of Recent Searches on ProQuest

On the next screen, select the searches you want to save by putting a check in the box beside the search. Note: if you applied limits, you will have a new search for each limit you set. Pay attention to which searches you are saving; you can save one, a selection, or all searches. When you have made your selection, click Save.

Screenshot of Save button on Recent Searches page in ProQuest

You will receive a prompt to name your search. I recommend a descriptive name that includes the date you ran the search in ProQuest.

How to set an alert

Setting an alert will allow ProQuest to run your search as frequently as you want it to, and you will receive e-mail alerts when new articles become available that meet your search criteria.

To set an alert, hover your mouse over the small downward arrow beside the word Actions from the Recent Searches menu (the same page for saving searches, described in the box above). From the dropdown menu that appears, click on Create alert. Follow the prompts to confirm your e-mail address and frequency to receive new e-mails.

Screenshot of creating an alert in ProQuest

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