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Gerstein Science Information Centre

Quality Improvement and Patient Safety (MScQIPS)

This guide is intended to assist students in the MSc in IHPME (Quality Improvement and Patient Safety concentration) with their literature review and other research projects.

Advanced Search Strings

1. When searching a database like Medline, use subject headings to target your search.

2. When searching the web, or a database like Scopus, use these tips to find more relevant results:

“ ” (quotes)

  • Group words together as a phrase
  • (doctors OR hospitals) AND "decision support systems"

*  (asterisk)

  • Different endings to a word
  • doctor* will find doctor, doctors, doctorate

Database Search Tips

For example, an advanced search string for Google Scholar might look like this...

Search the Web Faster, Better, Smarter

Focus on the question. What you are searching for? the latest developments, statistics etc. Give it some thought BEFORE you start your search.

Pick the right search tool vs. the one you know!  Is the information likely to be in an article, book, on the open internet? Who is likely to have authored the work? Who is the intended audience?

Examine what you find to revise your strategy. Analyze the most useful results for related terminology, sources, authors etc. to add to your search.

Read the instructions and/or scope notes for databases, clincal queries, limits, thesauri, etc.

Money talks. For academic work, focus on paid (licensed) sources. Find these on the Gerstein Homepage.

Avoid commonly used words. e.g. health, drugs, therapy, the, an, etc.

Replicate. Unless you have found exactly what you are looking for and confirmed accuracy, don’t stop with one source. Tools vary in quality and inclusion.

Don’t spend a lot of time trying to make something work. Try a different tool or approach. Never hesitate to ask for help.

Don't get side-tracked.  Bookmark or save that spectacular find, and move on.

Keep your search simple in simple tools.  Don’t complicate your search by adding too many terms, but use discretion. Use roots of words where supported.

What is the scope of the search tool? What subjects and titles are included? Pubmed and Medline index the same journals, for example.

What is being searched? Full text, bibliographic citations, references? Free text or controlled vocabularly? 

What type of search is it? Free text (Scopus),  Guided (Ovid),  “Intelligent” or algorithmic (Pubmed, Google)

Trusted Web Sources