Answered By: Jeffrey Orrico
Last Updated: Mar 02, 2017     Views: 143

As you mentioned, you can use "operators" (sometimes called connectors) such as AND to narrow a search according to Boolean logic. The basic operators are AND, OR, and NOT (sometimes called "AND NOT"), offered as drop-down options in the search window. To illustrate, consider the classic peanut butter sandwich:

  1. peanut butter AND jelly = only sandwiches with both pb & j (plus any other ingredients)
  2. peanut butter OR jelly = all sandwiches with either one: just pb, just j, and pb & j (plus any other ingredients)
  3. peanut butter NOT jelly =  no sandwiches with jelly; sandwiches with pb (plus any other ingredients)

Various databases also offer additional operators, such as NEAR/n, PRE/n, and WITHIN.

Another way to narrow your search results is to use the limiting tools offered in databases, such as:

  1. only articles within certain date ranges
  2. only articles pertaining to certain geographic areas
  3. only articles concerning particular age group, gender, ethnic, or other characteristics
  4. only articles which mention sub-topics (see SUBJECTS limiters)

For health sciences, the use of MESH (medical subject heading) tools offered in some databases (e.g. MEDLINE, PUBMED) allows greater specificity as to a medical diagnosis, test, or treatment. 

Similar strategies can draw in additional results through the use of synonyms or broader/alternative subject headings. For example, your element of reminder calls suggests a number of alternative terms that might be used by some writers: message, follow-up, tickler, letter, note, telephone, text, SMS, calendar, monitor, etc.

You are welcome to call (203-371-7726) or visit the Reference Librarians at Ryan-Matura Library to help you refine your search or to arrange an in-depth reference consultation with our Health Sciences Librarian, Geoff Staysniak (

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