SCM13: Tips and Tricks for Improved Literature Searching

A Librarian’s Tips and Tricks for Improved Literature Searching

Elizabeth Killingsworth, MLS, from the University of Central Florida Libraries, gave a great talk about how to avoid the dual frustrations of literature searching: finding nothing relevant or an overload of results with only minimal relevance to your topic (click here for presentation slides). Save time and effort by following her tips!

– It can be useful to explain the topic to someone else – conversation can help with defining terms/teasing out possible search words. Also, don’t get distracted by tangents to the core topic, instead take note of other possible searches for later.

– Search terms: Identify the key concepts in the topic that must be in each article. Be precise. Get rid of any filler or vague words that aren’t specific to the topic (like “relationship,” “increase,” “benefit,” etc). Remember that for the most part, databases look strictly for words not ideas.

– Follow Trails: When you find good articles, try searching words in the article for synonyms to use for searches, find out who wrote & search that author(s), and look at bibliography to discover more articles.

– Tips for specific databases:

  • PubMed: Create a My NCBI account and click SAVE SEARCH just below the search boxes to set up a search alert to get an email on the topic with new citations on a regular schedule.
  • Google:

o + to require a word; – sign to exclude a word; 2008..2013 to show results within a time frame

o Use site:URL or site:.domain to search within a web site. Example: or

o Use ~ to search for related words. Example: ~college will search for higher education or university

o Use filetype: to designate the type of file (docx, ppt, etc). Example: filetype:pdf

  • Google Scholar:

o You can set limits right in the search box. Example: Author: Thompson

o If your library participates, can set up Google Scholar to show if your library has the full-text article available (you’ll still need to login to your library to access the article). Go to settings and on the left, click on “Library links” to set up. “cited by” for an article is also useful to see what other articles have cited it

Check out more eAJKD coverage of the NKF’s 2013 Spring Clinical Meetings!

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