No 3 getting started with healthcare databases advanced search
East Dorset NHS Library Service
No. 3: Getting started with Healthcare Databases Advanced Search
This guide will provide step-by-step instructions on how to access the clinical
bibliographic databases to find relevant articles published in journals to support your
clinical practice. It will include how to perform a basic search, combine, limit and print
results, and save a search. For information on applying filters and searching alternative
evidence based resources see other guides in the series.
You need to have a username and password for NHS ATHENS to access the
databases. Please self-register online at www.swice.nhs.uk. See guide No.1 Getting
started with NHS ATHENS for more details.
Finding the databases:
1. Open the SWICE web site www.swice.nhs.uk a gateway to a range of information
to support clinical effectiveness
2. From the left-hand column select Health Information Resources (formerly NLH)
3. Select Login now and enter your NHS ATHENS username and password
4. From the green box on the left select Healthcare Databases Advanced Search
Step 1: Think about your question!
What are the important subject areas and words that will need to be in your search?
Are there alternative terms for your topics? How many subjects does your search cover?
What patient group, intervention, comparison, or outcome are you interested in?
Is there a specific age group?
Are you interested in a specific date range? Do you only require English articles?
What publication types are acceptable?
Step 2: Choose a database
Choose a database from the list provided. We recommend that you search separately in
at least two different databases.
Step 3: Enter your search terms
Type in your subject, Title and abstract is the default setting, select different criteria if
required. Press SEARCH. This will return documents with the exact words in the title
Use the OR command between synonyms and American/UK spellings e.g., Estrogen OR
oestrogen. Use double quotes around phrases and numbers e.g., “frozen shoulder”.
“diabetes type 2”
TIP: You can use * to replace any number of characters at the end of a word
e.g., Pregnan* will find pregnant, pregnancy, pregnancies etc. Add a number to
determine the maximum number of characters replaced.
Step 4: Use the database indexing
Enter the same term again and tick the Thesaurus Mapping box, SEARCH again. You
cannot thesaurus map to a truncated word. Select the index term that matches your
search term. Use the [scope] link for more information on index terms.
Select an appropriate heading from the list and click on search.
TIP: In some databases you can broaden your search by selecting Explode - this
selects not only your chosen subject heading but also related more specific subjects.
Selecting Major Descriptor or Sub Headings enables you to narrow your search.
Step 5: Combine word and thesaurus results
Combine the results of step 3 and 4 using the OR command. You may use the buttons
provided and select appropriate search lines or type directly into the search box
eg.1 or 2. Repeat Steps 3 - 4 with the other subjects in your search.
Step 6: Combine different topic searches
Using the AND command link your different topic searches.
TIP: Use OR where you want EITHER term or concept to be included in your results. Use
AND where you require BOTH terms or concepts to be included in your results.
Step 7: Limit your search
Use the limits section to narrow your search (eg by Language or age group). Open a
relevant limit by selecting the arrow on the right. Click on the option you require in the
menu. Hold down the Ctrl key to select multiple options from a menu.
Type the number of the search line you wish to apply Limits to into the search box. Then
SEARCH. Deselect Limits before you enter more search terms.
TIP: To search for an author, select author in the drop down box and use the format
“Smith R” Smith* “Smith R*” or Smith-R.
Step 8: View abstracts and select articles
View the articles by clicking on the number of results (Hits). To see abstracts and other
information, select the article title. You can ask to see all abstracts by ticking
”show abstracts”. Select articles of interest from the results by clicking on the box.
TIP: Once you have selected articles of interest you can click on Copy to clipboard to
sort your results or temporarily save results whilst you perform another search, perhaps
in another database. See what you have saved by selecting View your clipboard.
Step 9: View articles online
Not everything is online but where a Full Text link is available, use the blue supplier link
to open a copy of the full article online. Save, email or print it. You may need to use your
Athens password again. If the link does not take you straight to the article, look for an
Athens log-in prompt.
If the link is to a print copy at one of your local libraries make a note.
Library contact details may be available by clicking on the named library.
TIP: You can return to your search history at any time by clicking on Search and Limits at
the top of the screen. Re-run your search in a different database by choosing Search
using different databases and either re-execute your search history or continue with new
selection. N.B. Re-execute only works accurately with keyword searches.
Step 10: Print or email the articles
When you have selected your results you can email them or export them. Choose a
format: short, medium (includes abstract) or full. To Print or Save results first
Export in PDF or Word then save/print as normal.
TIP: You can save your search history to re-run by selecting save-all and providing a file
name. When you next log-in you can see a list of all your saved searches. Create alerts
to keep up-to-date with any new publications in the area of your search.
You may find the following tools helpful when you critically appraise the
information you have found:
Further Help: Please contact the Library Staff for more information. Training can be
organised to suit individual circumstances.
Royal Bournemouth: Library@rbch.nhs.uk 01202 704270
Poole: PGMC.email@example.com 01202 442101
Adapted from a guide created by NLH Search 2.0 Representatives Group Last up-dated 18/01/2010