Skip to Main Content

Database Searching

This LibGuide is meant to illustrate database structure and how to search databases according to their design. This LibGuide is meant to be directed toward searching Medical and Life Sciences databases.


Use OR in a search to:

  • connect two or more similar concepts (synonyms)
  • broaden your results, telling the database that ANY of your search terms can be present in the resulting records

Example: Kidney Disease OR Renal Disease


Using the Research Question & Boolean Operator OR

Example research question:

Are anti-vaping campaigns effective interventions for e-cigarette use among high school students?

A search needs to be done for each concept. You connect the terms, both subject headings and keywords within an individual concept, with OR. The below search is based on a Medline database as it utilizes MeSH.

P = Population = High school students.

Adolescent [MeSH] OR Students [MeSH] OR Minors [MeSH] OR "high school student*" [ti/ab] OR adolescen* [ti/ab] OR minor [ti/ab] OR minors [ti/ab] OR teen* [ti/ab] OR youth* [ti/ab] 

P = Problem = e-cigarette (use).

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems [MeSH] OR Vaping [MeSH] OR "e-cig*" [ti/ab] OR ecig* [ti/ab] OR "electronic cigarette*" [ti/ab] OR vape [ti/ab] OR vapes [ti/ab] OR vaping* [ti/ab] 

I = Intervention = Anti-vaping campaigns

Smoking Prevention [MeSH] OR Smoking Cessation [MeSH] OR "anti-smoking campaign*" [ti/ab] OR "antismoking campaign*" [ti/ab] OR "anti-vaping campaign*" [ti/ab] OR "antivaping campaign*" [ti/ab] OR "anti-smoking program*" [ti/ab]  OR "antismoking program*" [ti/ab]  OR "anti-vaping program*" [ti/ab] OR "antivaping program*" [ti/ab] OR "antivaping program*" [ti/ab] OR "smoking preven*" [ti/ab] OR "smoking cessat*" [ti/ab] "vaping preven*" OR [ti/ab] "vaping cessat*"OR [ti/ab]

What does [ti/ab] mean above?

To demonstrate the OR Boolean operator, a generalized syntax was used to demonstrate that keywords should be searched in targeted fields. "ti" is an abbreviation for title, and "ab" is an abbreviation for abstract. You must be mindful of what databases you use, and how you can select specific fields to search for your keywords in. This generalized syntax is loosely based off of Medline databases, and it further is used to demonstrate how subject headings, MeSH, and keywords search in different parts of the record.