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Health Information Technician

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How to Search

When dealing with the lives of others, finding the most up-to-date and highest quality evidence available is critical. Practicing and perfecting your search skills now is invaluable and will contribute to your later success in the field. 

Basic Principles of Effective Searching:

  1. Carefully design your clinical question
    A well constructed question generally has 4 components:
    a. Define the patient, problem, or population your question impacts
    b. Define what treatment (intervention) you are looking for
    c. Add a comparison element if your question includes comparing one intervention to another
    d. Ask what outcome the question desires
    Consider these components to better understand the question you want to ask. If you don't know the question, you won't be able to find an answer.

  2. Choose your key search terms
    Your search terms will stem from the question you initially create. Keywords are easily identified when you read your question, specifically when you define the patient and the intervention.

  3. Broaden your search as necessary with synonyms, truncation and/or wildcards
    Not all search terms are created equal. Some databases favor one word (e.g. gout) while another database will favor another (e.g. gouty arthritis). Think of the synonyms that exist for your main terms and search. If your favored term doesn't yield the results you want, broaden your search by removing the tense or second half of a word using truncation. For example, a search can be done for the words arthritis and arthritic (arthrit*) with truncation. Wildcards help if a search term has alternate spellings (search for color and colour by typing colo#r).  

  4. Use Boolean operators
    Boolean operators (e.g. AND, OR) limit or broaden a search depending on how they are used. When you want to return results that always include two different keywords use the connector AND. For example, a search for North Dakota AND Smoking will only return results that have both North Dakota and Smoking in each article. If a search for North Dakota OR ND AND Smoking was attempted, articles on North Dakota and smoking and articles on ND and smoking would be returned.