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Population and Public Health

Core Databases

Database Commands





0 or 1 character


Exactly 1 character



OVID databases


*  or  $  or  :


pharm$ will find:

pharmacy, pharmacist, pharmaceutical….

Child* will find:

children, childbirth, child-centred, childhood…








Quotation marks only needed if there's a word like "and," "or" or "use" in your phrase:


“Sensitivity and Specificity”

“Substance use disorder”


(adj=adjacent and "n" is the number of words)



environment* adj3 health will find environment, environmental etc. within 3 words of health.



Note: truncation stops automatic mapping to MeSH 


“your phrase”

Note: phrase searching stops automatic mapping to MeSH, and does not always find results

"search terms"[Field:~n]

Available for title and abstract only.


"nursing education"[Title/Abstract:~2]

EBSCO databases











“your phrase”

Nn or Wn

(N= Near, W= Within and "n" is the number of words)

seat* n5 wheelchair will find seat or seating etc. within 5 words of wheelchair.

Web of Science




Web of Science allows left-sided truncation as well as right-sided.

Example: *statin will find:

atorvastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin…

$ for exactly 0-1 characters

* for 0-multiple characters



“your phrase”


You can specify n number of words; or if you just type NEAR, the default range is within 15 words.



Scopus automatically searches for plurals and applies stemming


Scopus automatically includes spelling variants


Scopus automatically includes spelling variants

"your phrase"

loose phrase - searches for words in same field (title, abstract, or keyword), but not necessarily as an exact phrase.

{exact phrase}

Use curly brackets to look only for exact phrase. Note that hyphens count - eg, {COVID 19} and {COVID-19} will find different results. Can't use truncation or wildcards with exact phrase searching.

W/n (words in any order within n words of each other)

PRE/n (looks for words only in the order they are entered)

Proquest databases

*note: consider changing the drop-down next to the search box to "NOFT" instead of "anywhere" when searching these databases



for up to 5 characters in middle of word

? "your phrase"

NEAR/n (if you don't specify n, default is 4)

PRE/n (looks for words only in the order they are entered)

CAB Direct

NOTE: CAB is moving to a new site, likely with new search functions, in 2024


Automatic Stemming

Use quotation marks "XXX" to turn off Auto-stemming


Use proximity:

reproductive near/1 "aging"

searching phrase in quotes may find undesired results, eg "reproductive aging" will also find "reproductive age"


("n" is the number of words)

Google Scholar

Google Scholar can be a useful resource for finding literature. It's great for finding grey literature such as government reports, dissertations, and research presented at conferences. Clicking the "Cited by" link for a particular article can be an excellent way to find related research on a topic. However, there are a few caveats about using Google Scholar:

  • There's little to no quality control on the content in Google Scholar, so you may find results from predatory journals
  • Searching works a bit differently - for instance, truncation (using the * at the end of a word) searching doesn't work, and sometimes using brackets in your search causes unusual results
  • There are no subject terms or other filters you can use to focus your search

When using Google Scholar from off-campus, use the link below to enable access to UBC eLink.‚Äč Also, please see the Grey Literature guide below for additional tips on using Google Scholar, and more sources and techniques for finding grey literature:

Database Searching Tutorials

Finding COVID-19 research

When searching Ovid MEDLINE or PubMed, there are COVID search filters you can add to your search to focus your results:

In Ovid MEDLINE, after searching for your topic, click the Limits link below the search box and check the "COVID-19" box, then the Search button:

In PubMed, click "Clinical Queries," in the Find section on the main page; then choose COVID-19.

The sources below are good places to find preprints, grey literature, and other COVID research not included in MEDLINE.