Skip to main content

POLS 212: Health Politics (HC)

Political Science 212: Health Politics (Kavanagh) Fall 2014

Tips for Searching Part 2

Subject Headings allow you to find relevant material grouped together including titles that do not use the keywords you may have been searching.


Finding subject headings

       Look at a book record in Tripod, check the subjects assigned to it, and choose whatever ones are relevant for your research.

Example:  Ancestors and Antiretrovirals: The Biopolitics of HIV/AIDS in Post-Apartheid South Africa

written by Claire Laurier Decoteau .  University of Chicago Press, 2013.


                           aids (disease)  political aspects  south africa

                           aids (disease)  social aspects  south africa

                           health services  accessibility  south africa

                           hiv-positive persons  south africa 

   Subject search   aids (disease)  political aspects  south africa  =  12 results


Refining subject searches

                        You can combine different concepts into a single subject search for precision.  The results are more focused than a keyword search.

                         But all the words have to be terminology used in library subject cataloging.

                         To ensure this, you can use subject headings you have already found.  Another option is to browse in the subject headings for more choices.                   

                          Combination subject search:

   (health OR medical OR medicine)  ("developing countries")  =  290 results

                        Searches a composite group of terms about health

                        within the context of developing countries



Tips for Searching Part 1

If you search a catalog or database and receive a large number of results, add a limit or additional keyword in order to retrieve a manageable and relevant number of results to review.  At the same time overly narrow search terms can return too few results.  One way of solving both problems is to use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), which allow you to limit or expand searches depending on your needs.

For example, a search for health  AND politics will return items that contain both "politics" and "health":


health OR medicine returns items that contain either one of the terms or both:

west africa NOT liberia returns items that talk about the region but do not mention the country Liberia:

Phrase searching:

An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("political ecology") or titles:

For example, "Pathologies of Power"

will search for those words in that order, finding the 2003 book by Paul Farmer about structural violence and the rights to health and social justice.


Truncation and Wildcards:

Most catalogs and databases enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols.

For example, one could search for politic*  to find poltic, politics, political, politicking, and so on.

Wildcard searches are for differences within words: a search for wom?n will return results for woman, women, and womyn.


Nested Searching:

When pairing two or more keywords with another keyword, it is important to "nest" the former terms within a larger Boolean search.

(health* OR medicine*) AND  (govern* OR politic*) AND ("west africa*" OR nigeria*)  will return results for the union of the three subject areas.

 Results include:  Wealthiest is Not Always Healthiest: What Explains Differences in Child Mortality in West Africa?

                            Ickowitz, Amy. SSRN Working Paper Series, Jan 2014.    Full text