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HSC300H5: Written Communication for Health Care

Important Terms

Scope Note - A brief definition of a subject heading. Other information may be included but it depends on the database.

Explode - A command that tells the database to search for your requested subject heading and any narrower (more specific) terms.

Focus A command that tells the database to only search for articles where your requested subject heading as been identified as the focus of the article.

MeSH - Medical Subject Heading

Keyword - Words that can be sued to search in all (or selected) search fields in a database.

Limits - Specific criteria that can be used to narrowi search results.

Quick Boolean Refresher



The OR operator lets you retrieve records that contain any of your search terms. For example, the search heart attack or myocardial infarction retrieves records that contain heart attack, myocardial infarction or both terms. Results are all inclusive.

Use the OR operator to combine results sets into a single set inclusive of all records from the results sets indicated. For example, the search 1 or 2 or 3 combines results from the first, second, and third sets into a single set.


The AND operator lets you retrieve only those records that include all of your search terms. For example, the search blood pressure and stroke retrieves only those records that contain both terms blood pressure and stroke together in the same record. Results exclude records that do not contain both terms.

Use the AND operator to combine two or more results sets into a single set that contains only those records that the original sets had in common. For example, the search 1 and 2 and 3 creates a set of only those records that sets one, two, and three have in common.

Shortcuts and Wildcards

To conduct searches faster and more efficiently, the Ovid interface supports a number of shortcuts which you can enter directly into the search box: – displays your current search history and loads it in your browser window for easy print/capture

exp – preceding a MeSH term will automatically explode the term and include all narrower subject headings

.mp – stands for multi-purpose.  The fields searched by a .MP search may vary, but in general a .MP search looks in the Title, Original Title, Abstract, Subject Heading, Name of Substance, and Registry Word fields.

Truncation and wild cards let you utilize root words to find variations of terms that might be valuable to your overall search. 

# - This symbol stands for one character within or at the end of a word. For exam​ple, organi#ation finds occurrences of organization and organisation, and dog# finds occurrences of dogs but not dog.

? - This symbol stands fostands for zero or one characters within a word or at the end of a word. It is useful for retrieving records with British and American spelling variations because it finds words whether or not the extra character is present. For example, a search for colo?r finds occurrences of color and colour.

$ or * - These symbols search for unlimited variations on a word that are formed with different suffixes. For example, a search for gene* finds occurrences of genegenesgenetic, and generation.

$n or *n - These symbols search for limited right-hand truncation as the n defines the number of characters to be searched. For example, a search for dog*1 finds occurrences of dog and dogs but not dogma.