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*Public Health

Use the websites below to find out even more about Public Health. Search for data, find professional organizations, and more.

What's On This Page?

On this page you'll find some helpful tips and tricks to effectively search for articles, as well as some subject-specific search strategies for public health.

Basic Searching: Keywords and Boolean Connectors

Keywords: Overview

Some form of a keyword search is the way most of us look for scholarly articles in database. It is a great approach! Make sure you are familiar with these librarian strategies to get the most out of your searches.

Figuring out the best keywords for your research topic/question is a process. You will start with one or a few words. Then you will adjust them as you start finding sources that describe the topic using other words.You can shift, adapt, and expand your search. Your words bridge between known topics and the unknowns of your research question. Sometimes one specific word will be enough. Sometimes you will need several different words to describe a concept AND you will need to connect that concept to another concept.

Boolean Operators
Boolean Connector Purpose
AND finds the overlap between two concepts. It gives things that match both concepts.


Connects different concepts (keywords).

Narrows down the number of results.

OR is additive and gives anything that matches any of your terms


Connects synonyms.

Expands the number of results.

NOT is subtractive. It removes one concept from another.


Excludes a concept.

Use with extreme caution (even librarians don't use this one much).

Connect Keywords Using Boolean: Examples

OR: Connects Similar Concepts 

It expands the number of results on the topic.

Examples Topics of Interest  Search terms connected by OR
insurance insurance OR Medicaid
pollution pollution OR contamination
relationships relationships OR friendships

AND: Connects Different Concepts

It narrows down the number of results.

Example Topics of Interest Search terms connected by AND
insurance coverage for cancer insurance AND cancer
pollution in water systems water AND pollution
effect of social relationships on rates of depression relationships AND depression

NOT: Excludes a Concept 

Use with extreme caution.

Example Topic of Interest Search terms connected by NOT
cancers besides leukemia cancer NOT leukemia
non-medical pollution pollution NOT medication
relationships outside of the family relationships NOT parents

Basic Searching: Truncation, Phrase Searching, and Controlled Vocabulary

Make the Database Work More


...uses the asterisk (*) to end a word at its core, allowing you to retrieve many more documents containing variations of the search term.  Example: educat* will find educate, educates, education, educators, educating and more.


Phrase Searching when you put quotations marks around two or more words, so that the database looks for those words in that exact order. Examples: "higher education," "public health" and "pharmaceutical industry."


Controlled Vocabulary

...uses the database's own terms to describe what each article is about. Searching using controlled vocabularies is a great way to get at everything on a topic in a database.

Basic Searching: Useful Parts of a Good Article

Once you know you have a good article, there are a lot of useful parts to it - far beyond the content.

Useful Part Explanation
Keywords Check the author-generated keywords, the database subject headings, the title, abstract and introduction for words that may be great additional/alternative search terms. You don't have to know everything about a topic before you start searching. Let what you find introduce you to the language of the field.
Author(s) If they have written one article on this topic, they may have written more. Click on the authors' names to find what else they have in the database. Or use their names (individually) as a search term elsewhere.
Journal They may have published other articles on your topic. Sometimes a special issue will focus on a single topic. Consider browsing or searching within a specific publication. Oftentimes you'll end up searching in the journal's website.
Instruments Authors might have already created and validated an instrument (survey, tests, and measures). Consider if you can use/adapt it for your own work. Check for details in the methods section, an original citation in the reference, and/or a copy in the appendix.
References Experts on this topic have gathered and evaluated these sources. Check them for potential sources for your own work.

Check for useful tools in the database or search engine:

  • Cited By: Use these links and buttons to find newer sources that have used your source as a reference.
  • Similar Articles, Related Articles, You might also like..., and other similar tools: Use these links and buttons to find sources that may be about the same topic.

Subject-Specific Search Strategies

Are you trying to find datasets?

  • Use the resources on the "Find Sources" page.
  • Try to find similar studies. Check the introduction, methods, and data statements to identify how those authors got their data. They might identify a public dataset. They might provide their own dataset.
  • Search in PubMed for hasdatabanklist and your topic. The results should include information about data sources.

How Do I...?

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