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Nursing: Plan your Search

This guide contains resources and guidance to help students studying Nursing.

Why plan your search


At university, you are expected to find and use scholarly information.

This page will show you how to plan your search so you retrieve the best results. 

Unpacking your assignment


Your first step before you find any information is figuring out what your assignment is asking you and what your topic is about.

The following video shows you how to break down your assessment and get started brainstorming keywords you can use.

Step 1: Identify your key concepts


The main ideas (or key concepts) in your assignment question or research topic are your starting point for building a search.


Are compression stockings effective for preventing deep vein thrombosis post-surgery? 

The key concepts are: 

Compression Stockings Deep Vein Thrombosis Post-surgery

If you are working from a scenario, you can also use PICO to break down your question. Check the Evidence-Based Practice guide for more information.

Step 2: Brainstorm keywords & synonyms


Researchers will refer to the same concept using different terms. For example, when researchers are talking about compression stockings, they could also say compression socks.

Track any terms you can think of in a table like this to include in your search.


Compression Stockings Deep Vein Thrombosis Post-surgery

Compression stockings

Compression socks

Compression hosiery

Compression garment

Deep vein thrombosis


Blood clots





lightening bolt


Some resources to help with brainstorming: 

  • Google & Wikipedia
  • Your textbooks
  • Assigned readings and lecture notes

Step 3: Building your search


Use Boolean Operators to combine your search terms. You can build multiple searches using different combinations of synonyms & keywords.

Watch the video below to see how it works.

Step 4: Run your search


Depending on where you are searching, you can put together your search string in two ways:

Single box

e.g. Library catalogue, Google Scholar, ProQuest simple search

("compression stocking*" OR "compression sock*") AND ("deep vein thrombosis" OR DVT OR "blood clot*") AND ("post surg*" OR "postoper* OR perioperative)


Multiple boxes

e.g. CINAHL, ProQuest advanced search

"compression stocking*" OR "compression sock*"


"deep vein thrombosis" OR DVT OR "blood clot*"


"post surg*" OR "postoper* OR perioperative

lightening bolt


  • Wildcards* will find any ending of your term e.g. child* will also find children
  • If you have a "phrase like this" use double quotation marks to have the search look for the exact phrase