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A Guide for Nurses and Nursing Students: Welcome!

About this guide

This guide provides links to useful resources and databases for nursing students and faculty at UAB Libraries, and offers tips on effective searching using the PICOT format.  If you have trouble finding for what you need, or haven't found what you're looking for in 30 minutes, it's time to Chat with a Librarian! or reach out to your nursing librarian, Becca Billings, at Happy searching!

Strategies for Successful Searching

1. Identify key concepts and brainstorm search terms for each

  • Break down your topic, PICOT question, or clinical scenario into searchable keywords
  • Using the "preferred terminology" in the database increases the success of your work.
    • In PubMed, this is called MeSH (for Medical Subject Headings)
    • In CINAHL, this is called CINAHL Headings
    • In EMBASE, this is called Emtree
    • Scopus uses keyword searching only, there is no "preferred terminology"


2. Build search strings using "AND", "OR" and sometimes, "NOT"

  • Learn more about Boolean operators
  • "AND" narrows your topic - Use in between separate concepts
    • childhood diabetes AND nutrition plan
    • nurses AND simulation
  • "OR" broadens your topic - Use in between synonyms
    • drug addiction OR drug dependence
    • tumor OR neoplasm OR cancer
  • "NOT" eliminates elements from your topic.  Use "NOT" sparingly and with caution; it is easy to cancel out important articles.
    • sleep disorders NOT narcolepsy
    • palliative care NOT hospice


3. Choose the right resources or databases to search

  • Consider books and e-books for background information
  • Articles can provide current evidence to answer specific patient or clinical information
  • Use articles to find evidence for evidence-based health care
  • PubMed (bio-medical literature) and CINAHL (nursing and allied health) are great starting points for finding peer-reviewed biomedical articles


4. Use search tips or help sections in your chosen database for more tricks to focus your searches

  • Each database searches differently.  Some use subject terms that include popular synonyms.  Others search by keyword only.
  • Look for additional subject terms and keywords on article abstract pages to help you expand or focus your search.
  • PubMed and CINAHL have "limits" for language, patient ages, publication types, date, and more.

Working Remotely

You can access online resources off-campus. Just start with the library's homepage:

When prompted, you will be asked to enter your Blazer ID and password to log in when off-campus and when using  to find full text.

If the article is not available at LHL, use our Interlibrary loan services to get the article in 1-2 business days.  This service is free for all UAB affiliates. 


NOTE: If you have issues accessing resources or articles, try turning off your VPN if you are using one, and rerun your browser page. We have found that VPN use can sometimes impact accessing resources that you should see off campus.


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Becca Billings
Lister Hill Library
Room 251D
Subjects: Nursing
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