Incorporating synonyms or variations of search terms can be a useful way to expand the number of articles found. For example, adding prevention to taping or injury to ankle sprain can increase the number of articles available (eg, taping OR prevention AND ankle sprain OR ankle injury). NOT is the Boolean operator that stops a term from being included in a search. This can be helpful for limiting the population of the studies. If one only wants articles for adults (ages 18 years or older), use NOT to filter out adolescents and children (eg, bracing AND taping AND adults NOT adolescents).
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Like any clinical skill, using a computer database to search for articles takes practice. The following are tips and tricks to help get started:
• Tip 1: Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT can be selected from the pull-down selection boxes or entered directly within the search text boxes. Use parentheses to separate components when entering a complex search directly in text box with mixed Boolean operators. Example: (ligament injury OR sprain) AND (ankle AND foot).
• Tip 2: The AND operator is used by default between search terms. The string ice application will match records where both words are included in any order or proximity. Search for exact phrases by enclosing a string in quotation marks. Example: “therapeutic ultrasound” matches the exact term.
• Tip 3: Use an asterisk (*) as a wildcard character. Realize that autopluralization and autosingu-larization are active. Example: athlete matches athlete, athletes, athletic, and athletics.
• Tip 4: Use the wildcard character (*) at the end of a term to search for diseases that could appear in the text with different endings, such as Alzheimer or Alzheimer’s disease. Example: alzheimer* disease.
• Tip 5: Articles retrieved can be restricted in several ways, including by date of publication, language, whether an abstract is present, etc. Check the advance search tab of the database.
• Tip 6: Use so or [so] at the end of a term to search for studies from a specific source. Example: concussions AND JAMA [so].
• Tip 7: Use the Medical Subject Heading list to find synonyms and other terms and subtopics related to the search terms (www.nlm.nih.gov/mesh/MBrowser.html).
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