ACAP LEARNING RESOURCES
When searching complex research questions, it is best to begin with smaller, simpler searches, testing them as you go. Then, combine the tested search strings as required.
Some consider it best practice to search one concept at a time and combine concepts using the database's search history.
Not only does this strategy ensure your searches are working effectively, and highlight any mistakes such as spelling, ineffective truncation, or incorrect Boolean logic, it also makes editing and updating them more effective and accurate.
Using our Cyberbullying search in EbscoHost, here is an example using the search history tool to combine single topic (single box) searches.
See below we have combined S2 AND S3 AND S5 AND S7 to create a complex search.
Testing against Gold Sets
Refer to the Scoping Searches & Gold Sets page in this guide to learn about collecting a Gold Set of articles with which you can test your searches.
Once you have a Gold Set of relevant articles, you can test your search strategies to see if the articles appear in the results. This way you can be sure you are on the right track. Follow these steps for testing against your Gold Set:
You can see in the Cyberbullying example from EbscoHost below, that the combination of our final search strategy (S5) with a TITLE search (S6) from our gold set produces one result (S7). This confirms that our strategy works for this article. The more articles you test in this way the more confident you can be about the quality of your search.
Consider using the PRESS Checklist from the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. The form will help you check for typos and errors in syntax and logic and the correct use of subject headings and filters.
Have you included all possible relevant synonyms?
Have you included all the listed subject headings?
Have you retrieved an appropriate number of results?
Ask others to check your results