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PBC Athletic Training

Techniques for refining a search

  • Truncation: Use an asterisk (*) to retrieve all possible endings of the "root" word. So, if you search for therap* you would retrieve therapy, therapist, or therapeutic, etc.

  • Search specific fields: If you get too many results, try narrowing your search to a specific field, such as the article title field. To do this in PubMed, click on Advanced, and select a field from the drop-down menu. A keyword search conducted (without selecting anything from a drop-down when you search) generally defaults to results that include that word in the article body, abstract, or journal. If you select Title, you are searching for words appearing in the title.

  • Re-sorting your search results: Be mindful of how your results are sorted. Databases vary. Pubmed defaults to showing you results by "most recently published." Try changing how results or sorted.

  • Limit results: Results can be limited to certain publication types, date ranges, and more. In PubMed, use "filters" on the left side of the screen to narrow results.

More search tips

Too many results?

  • Add more search terms with AND (i.e. migraine AND pregnancy)

  • Use filters to limit results (i.e. Humans & English)

Not enough results?

  • Broaden search with OR (sore throat OR strep throat)

  • Find one “good” reference and view subject terms for "clues." Try searching those terms.


  • Experiment! (Keywords, Boolean operators, filters)

  • Save “good” references as you go so you can find your way back to them

  • Ask the librarian for help when you need it!


  • Don’t use filters to limit results to Full Text availability – this is not always accurate for various reasons and will exclude important results. Also remember that you can request articles if they are not in full text.

What is your topic?

  • Define your topic and identify keywords to search. 
  • Consider searching Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) with keywords to strengthen a search. 
  • Experiment with filters to limit results (eg. age groups, English language, publication dates, certain types of articles or studies, etc.)

Boolean Logic

If your topic is about two concepts, search both terms using the Boolean operator AND. 

   Hand injuries AND occupational therapy

And narrows search

This is a search for two concepts together, so there are fewer results than there would be for either term alone. 

To broaden a search, use OR.

(Hand injuries OR wrist injuries) AND occupational therapy

OR broadens search

The search above with "OR" when entered into a database should look like this: (The terms in parentheses above go in the same line below)

sample search  using and and or


PICO Search Demonstration (From Summer PT685 Session)

Getting Full Text

If you enter PubMed through NAU's Cline Library, click on an article's title and look for this:

Find it @ Cline

If you enter PubMed through UA's AHSL, (access UA on-campus only-Phoenix) look for one of these images:

UA Full Text


Sometimes you will find database results that do not display the NAU Cline Library image next to it that are still available for free:

 Full Text in PubMedFull Text Free

If there is no link for full text to check, go to the Cline Library Citation Linker and search for the journal by name, article title, volume, issue, page numbers and DOI.  (For help with this, see Finding Full Text.)

Still can't find it? Request the article!

Use Filters to Narrow Results

There are limits on the left-side menu of the results page. Click Show additional filters at the top of the menu to adjust your filters. Once filters are established, conduct your search, and then narrow results by clicking, for example, Humans and English, as shown below. Be sure the checkmark is shown to the left of the filter. The filter hasn't been applied until the checkmark is visible.

Limit results page in PubMed