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GC 698: Non Thesis Research: Search Strategies

5 Successful Search Strategies

Follow these 5 steps for a successful search:

1.  Identify key concepts and think of synonyms for each concept.

  • Watch this tutorial to learn more about key concepts.

2.  Build search statements using AND, OR, and sometimes NOT.

  • Use AND to narrow your search and OR to broaden it.

3.  Choose the right databases and resources to search.

  • PubMed is a good starting point for peer-reviewed research articles.
  • Consider books and e-books for background information.

4.  Use filters to refine search results.

  • PubMed has limits for language, patient age, publication type, date, and more.

5.  Chat with a Librarian if you get stuck or need any help!

Genetic Counseling Search Strategy Example

Background Information

When is background information useful?

  • If you are unfamiliar with the topic, it provides a good overview of the subject matter.
  • It helps you to identify important facts related to your topic: terminology, dates, events, history, and names or organizations.
  • It can help you to refine your topic.
  • Background sources might lead you to bibliographies that you can use to find additional sources of information on your topic.

Benedictine University Library. (n.d.) Finding Background Information. Retrieved from

The sources below can provide you with overview information on your topic(s):

  • textbooks
  • dictionaries
  • general encyclopedias
  • subject-specific encyclopedias  

Benedictine University Library. (n.d.) Finding Background Information. Retrieved from

Finding eBooks in UAB Libraries Catalog

Gale Virtual Reference Library

Encyclopedia covering a wide variety of specialties.  Search suggestion:  Use specific keywords such as:


  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Testing

UAB Libraries Online Dictionaries

List of online dictionaries available through UAB Libraries' catalog.  Search suggestions:  Add general terms such as: dictionary (medical OR "medical care" OR healthcare OR "health care" OR health) or use Subject filter on left.  For example, limit to Medicine and Health & Biological Sciences.

Genetics Glossaries

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