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Health Sciences Literature Searching: Choosing Better Search Terms

A guide to help you search the Health Sciences literature


Now that you have search terms, let's see how you can replace them for more scientific or medical terms to improve your search.


Table sugar can go by many different names. Biologists may call it sucrose while chemists may consider its chemical formula, C12H22O11, more important. Just like table sugar, many terms used in health sciences literature searching go by different names in medical research than everyday use.

High School Football Example

Use the boxes below to practice this skill of finding more scientifc and medical terms for our high school football search. Try thinking of some answers on your own and then scroll down to reveal some better words for our search.

Examples of Better Search Terms

Beginning Search Terms Improved Replacement Terms
high school teenage, adolescent
head injuries brain concussion, head trauma
concussion brain concussion
helmet head protection


If you are looking to find a relationship between terms, you don’t need to use words like “compare” “contrast” or “relationship” in the search. If you do, it implies that you already know the How and Why and that will bias your search.


If you're confused about researching, Ask A Librarian any time of day for help.

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David Nolfi