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MGMT 590

Developing a Search Strategy for OneSearch or the Research Databases

When searching the library research databases or OneSearch, it's good to have a strategy. Unlike Google or Internet search engines, the databases and OneSearch can't interpret natural language or strings of unconnected words. You should identify the key elements in your research question and then brainstorm for a few alternative terms and synonyms that go along with them. Then you can connect and combine those terms in different ways using Boolean operators (see sidebar infographic and video in box below).


The acronym PICOC describes five elements of a searchable question in evidence-based management:

  • Population           Who?
  • Intervention          What or How?
  • Comparison        Compared to what?
  • Outcome              What are you trying to accomplish / improve?
  • Context                 In what kind of organization / circumstances?

Please be aware that addressing all five elements in a single database search statement doesn't always work: You may need to try multiple searches with different search strategies to fully address one researchable question.

For example, what if you were researching the question:

How do we improve job satisfaction of nurses working in neonatal units  towards working hours? ( using PICOC, improve job satisfaction = O , nurses = P, neonatal units = C, working hours = I)

The key elements are obviously the words I underlined:

improve(d) job satisfaction nurses neonatal units working hours

 It's good to have a few synonyms and related terms for your key concepts. They may also be helpful in your search!

improved job satisfaction: nurses: neonatal units: working hours:
job satisfaction, employee satisfaction, attitudes nursing staff, nurse practitioners intensive care units, maternity wards shifts, shift system, working shifts, night hours, flextime

Now I can develop either a basic search statement (with quotation marks around multi-word phrases):

"employee satisfaction" AND nurses AND "neonatal units" AND "working hours"

Or a more advanced search statement, throwing in some related terms and synonyms (in parentheses sets using the OR connector):

("employee satisfaction" OR attitudes) AND nurses AND "neonatal units" AND ("working hours" OR shifts)

Find out why I combined terms with AND and OR in the video below (capitalization and bold type just for emphasis)!

Boolean: Combining Keywords

This YouTube video from the University of Auckland, New Zealand demonstrates how to combine search keywords using the Boolean AND, OR, and NOT. It also shows you how to apply Boolean searching in a variety of database and catalog search screens.