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Population and Public Health

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

Proximity searching not available in PubMed 

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 x number of words; or if you just type NEAR, the default range is within 15 words.


Core Databases

Finding Full Text of Articles

When searching an article database, find UBC’s eLink  to check for online version of articles. Clicking the eLink will take you to a “Find Full Text” screen like this:

If you don't find a link to a PDF or online journal on the Find Full Text page, here's what to do:

1) First, try the “Search UBC Library Catalogue” button to see whether the Library has a print copy of the journal. If so, you can visit the Library to scan a copy or use Document Delivery to request a copy.

2) If there’s not a print copy, use the “Request via UBC Interlibrary Loan” button. This lets you order a PDF copy of the article from another library (free for students, faculty, staff).

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.​ 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