Anatomy & Physiology I

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Think like a database!

Databases respond better to single words or short phrases than to long, natural language queries. Connect words and phrases with AND or OR.

  • LESS GOOD: best way to treat shin splints in runners
  • BETTER: shin splints AND running AND treatment


If your search term consists of a phrase, you can put it in quotation marks to make sure that the words appear together in your results.

  • LESS GOOD: runner's knee
  • BETTER: "runner's knee"


Databases tend to have official subject headings that they use for different topics. Try to find out which subject headings apply to your search. (Look at the database record of a good article to see which subject headings were used, or search the database's thesaurus directly.)

  • WORDS YOU MIGHT USE: Nordic skiing; ACL
  • SUBJECT HEADINGS DATABASE USES: cross-country skiing; anterior cruciate ligament


Sometimes it makes more sense to use advanced search options or limiters than words to narrow your search.

  • Instead of typing deep vein thrombosis review articles, type deep vein thrombosis and limit your search to review articles using the database's advanced search options.
  • Limiters are also available for things like language, date of publication, article or publication type, type of subject (human/animal), gender, age, etc.


If your search could include a number of related words (e.g. athlete, athletes, athletic, etc.), most databases let you use a wildcard to search for all of them at once.

  • Type as much of the word as all of its forms have in common, then type the wildcard character (usually an asterisk).
  • EXAMPLE: a search for athlet* will bring up articles that include the words athlete, athletes, athletic, athletics...)



The first search that a researcher types in almost never brings back exactly what they need. It's not at all uncommon for the first search that you try to yield zero results! Try different words; try adding or removing limiters; and, if you're still not having luck, talk with a librarian or your instructor -- we can help!