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Postgraduate Medicine: How to Search the Literature

This guide offers an eight step approach from identifying your topic to managing your search strategy and results.

7. Translate a Search Strategy

The following steps to translating a search strategy from one database to another will be demonstrated.

Steps

1. Access a copy or open your original search strategy (e.g. Ovid Medline). This will serve as a guide to translating your strategy into the other database(s).

2. Open the database you wish to translate your search into (e.g. Ovid Embase, CINAHL, Ovid PsycINFO).

3. In the search box of the new database (e.g. Ovid Embase), enter the first term or phrase from your original strategy (e.g. Ovid Medline).

4. Identify and search on the relevant subject heading.

  • Remember, controlled vocabulary / subject heading terms vary across databases (e.g. Ovid Medline uses MeSH while Ovid Embase uses Emtree).
  • An equivalent controlled vocabulary / subject headings may not exist across databases. In such situations, it is recommended that you search it as a keyword.
  • For all keyword or phrase searches, check to see if there is a controlled vocabulary / subject heading in the new database, regardless of whether the equivalent exists in the original search strategy.

5. Repeat step 4 for subsequent terms or phrases from the original search.

Translated search strategy in CINAHL:

 

Translated search strategy in Embase:


Translated search strategy in Web of Science (note that this database does not use subject headings):

6. After completing the translation, where appropriate, revise the original search strategy, to include new controlled vocabularies / subject headings as keywords.