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NRS 528 Research and Evidence-Based practice: Search Strategies: Keywords


The first step in the search process is getting a grip on the key terms.  For an example, let's try the following topic:

Team building to implement change

First, we isolate the important phrases; in this case, "team building" and "implement change." We can use these phrases as starting points for a list of synonymous terms, broader and narrower topics, related words, and reversed word orders. Here's a quick list:

  • team
  • team dynamics
  • team interaction
  • team collaboration
  • collaboration
  • team admininistration
  • building teams
  • teamwork


  • change
  • change management
  • organizational change
  • change implementation
  • implementations

NOTE: reversing terms (team building to building team) will give you the same number of results UNLESS you change anything...for example, "team building" gives over 1,000 results, but "building teams" gives only 1/10 as many.

Another helpful tool is truncation. Using an asterisk (*) at the end of a root of a word will search all endings. For example, a search with "change manag*" searches the following:

  • change manage
  • change management
  • change managing 
  • change managed
  • change manages
  • change manager

and the converse as well, such as...

  • managing change

You can use truncation on more than one word. For example, "chang* manag*" also searches the following:

  • mananging changes

BUT beware, truncation can be TOO broad. The above search example would also seach less useful combinations, such as "changing managers," which is pretty far from our original topic.

Thinking about the desired outcome

There are other ways to approach a difficult topic. What is the desired outcome or elements that make up the definition of "success"? Using the same topic as an example, think of some of the results of (or the elements that constitute) effective "team building"?

  • communication
  • cooperation
  • cohesion
  • collaboration
  • esprit de corps
  • morale
  • peer support
  • efficacy in general
  • patient safety

"Implementing change" is potentially related to these outcomes and/or consisting of these elements:

  • process improvement
  • quality
  • compliance
  • best practices
  • research