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Health Administration

Searching Tips & Strategies

TRUNCATION is...a search technique in electronic databases that allows you to search for multiple endings of root words. 

  • The * is the truncation symbol for most databases.
  • The truncation symbol for the Library Catalog is the ?
  • In LexisNexis it is the !


EXAMPLE:  femini*  

The following words will be searched for: 

feminist, feminism, feminists, feminine, feminize

For the following keyword search:


below is the database's controlled vocabulary and limits, where you can narrow your results, or start a new search.



                 Connecting words such as AND, OR, NOT help you to expand or limit your search by connecting your topic and each of your main points.  See an illustration of how Boolean operators work at

For example, “AND” different concepts together to narrow your search.  “OR” synonyms, different forms of the word, or related terms to expand your search.  For instance, if I wanted articles that mentioned either cats or dogs, but not necessarily both together, I would use “cats OR dogs.”  If I wanted an article that discussed both cats and dogs, I would use “cats AND dogs.”



discriminat* AND (women or female*) AND (work OR employ* OR job*)

translates into this Advanced Search


HINT:  Use Advanced Search in the Library Catalog or databases to help construct your Boolean query!  In the Library Catalog,  “All of these”=AND; “Any of these”=OR; “As a phrase”=quotation marks around search terms.

Controlled vocabulary--also known as subject headings, subject terms, thesaurus terms, or descriptors--are the official indexing   terms used by the organizers of a database to describe each concept so that all items on the same topic have the same descriptor or subject heading. 

In contrast to “free Web” searching, controlled vocabularies organize the information in a database.

Your search results will be more focused and more relevant, since you will be searching directly in the descriptor field.


  • When you start searching in a database, you may not know what the controlled vocabulary is for that topic in that database. 

The best way to proceed is to start with a keyword search (the default option in databases),  using Boolean logic and truncation to combine your terms.

Then, use the limits and controlled vocabulary (subject terms or descriptors) the database provides. Depending on the database, these might be displayed in a sidebar on the left or at the top in the list of results.  

Limits include:

  • Date ranges 
  • Limit to Scholarly/Peer Reviewed
  • Other publication types and formats
  • Items that are full text in the database you are searching
  • Geographical location


Narrow your current search or start a new search using the subject terms. Doing so will help increase the relevancy of the articles retrieved. (See illustration in the box to the left.)



When you click on a particular record, the controlled vocabulary will be included in the full citation.  There may also be an abstract, or summary, that is another potential source of keywords or concepts for you to search.