The following steps to searching a database have been tailored for Ovid Medline. However, this is a general approach and it can be applied to different databases.
1. Search for each concept and their search terms one at a time.
e.g. OVID Medline Epub Ahead of Print, In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Ovid MEDLINE(R) Daily and Ovid MEDLINE(R) 1946 to Present
The following screen will be displayed after clicking on Search:
2. Click on the Scope Note to determine if a subject heading is relevant. Click on Previous Page to return to the Mapping display screen.
3. You may optionally Explode or Focus a subject heading. Clicking on a subject heading from the Mapping display screen (see above) will display the following:
Explode can potentially increase the number of results by retrieving records that include the selected subject heading as well as narrower subject headings (listed directly below it and indented to the right). In the example above, Tennis elbow does not have narrower subject headings. However, it is a narrower subject heading of Elbow Tendinopathy
Focus will decrease the number of results by retrieving records where that subject heading is considered to be the main theme. It should be used with caution, and is rarely used in a comprehensive search strategy
Once a subject heading like Tennis Elbow has been selected, you can further narrow the search results by attaching a subheading to it.
Subheadings are used to describe the specific aspects of the subject heading that are pertinent to the item. They should be used with caution when constructing a complex search strategy because they are subjective. In certain circumstances, they can be used as an additional search strategy.
4. Search for all of the terms within your first concept (e.g. Tennis elbow) using a combination of subject headings and keywords; then combine them using the OR Boolean operator.
5. Search for all of the terms within your second concept (e.g. surgery) using a combination of subject headings and keywords; then combine them using the OR Boolean operator.
Note: Combining terms within a concept in an Ovid database can be done in multiple ways; see lines 5 and 10
6. Combine the final search set for each of the concepts using the AND Boolean operator. For example, combine lines 5 with 10 using the AND Boolean operator (i.e. 5 AND 10).
7. If appropriate, search for a subject heading and its relevant subheading to supplement your final search result (see line 10 in the above example). Combine these results using the OR Boolean operator (see line 13 in the example below) .
Note: In the above search history, .mp. indicates a keyword search while a forward slash [/] indicates a subject heading search.
8. Apply limits one at a time to see how each narrows the results.
9. Test your search strategy.
10. Save your search strategy.
11. Replicate your search strategy in other databases. A search strategy designed for one database will need to be "translated" for use in other databases, because:
Remember that searching is an iterative process, and if you find a unique term in a subsequent search then you should revise your initial search.
See next page, Translating a Search Strategy, for more details.