The Research Question
Most searches benefit from defining a question prior to developing a search strategy. Typical questions asked in a search for alternatives may be:
A more specific question may be something like:
Are there less painful or distressful alternatives to the procedures being employed in the research on the effects of L-fucose or arachidonic acid in the establishment of acute (trauma-induced) osteomyelitis caused by S. aureus in rats?
Defining the question(s) precisely can help you to begin identifying keywords and synonyms.
Note: most databases and search engines assume AND if no operator is used between terms.
|AND||To find results containing all terms or concepts. Narrows results.||primates AND enrichment|
|OR||To find results containing any of the terms. Used for combining synonyms or similar concepts. Broadens results.||mouse OR murine OR mus musculus|
|NOT||Used to exclude a term from all results. Narrows results, but can often exclude relevant articles. Use with caution.||animal models NOT primates|
Use parentheses to link sets of similar concepts or synonyms:
(eye OR ocular OR cornea) AND toxicity testing AND (alternatives OR biological assay OR in vitro OR ex vivo OR culture)
Truncation can be used to include all forms of a word in a search without having to type each one out. For example, in PubMed:
therap* will return results with therapy, therapies, therapeutic, therapeutics... etc.
reduc* will return reduce, reduces, reduction... etc.
Most databases use the asterisk (*) for truncation, but not all. If you are unsure, you can usually find the appropriate symbol under Help.
Keywords & Subject Headings