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Database Searching: Search Strategy

Step 1: What are the Major Concepts?

Once you have chosen your search topic, the next step is to identify what the major concepts are. These major concepts are going to become the terms you search for in the database.

Topic: In the pediatric population, do distraction techniques during immunization result in less pain and anxiety?

  • Patient/Population: Children
  • Intervention: Distraction Techniques
  • Comparison: N/A
  • Outcome: Pain/Anxiety
  • Time: During Immunization/Vaccination

Topic: How does obesity promote tumor development?

  • Obesity
  • Tumor
  • Development

Step 2: What Terms/Phrases should be Searched?

The search terms you will be using may not always be the concepts you identify from your topic. It's important to see if there are any controlled vocabulary terms (e.g. MeSH in PubMed, EmTree in Embase, Cinahl Headings in CINAHL) that are related to your concepts, there may even be multiple terms for each concept!

The other important thing to note is when using keywords you need to also identify synonymous terms.

One way to simplify covering all the various iterations of a concept is to use truncation. Truncation is most often accomplished by adding an astrerik (*) at the end of a root word. This will search not only the word you have chosen, but any variation of the word.

Example:

Child* will retrieve: Child, Children, Childhood, etc

Topic: In the pediatric population, do distraction techniques during immunization result in less pain and anxiety?

Patient/Population (Part 1): Children

  • Child (controlled vocabulary)
  • Preschool Child (controlled vocabulary)
  • Adolescent (controlled vocabulary)
  • Infant (controlled vocabulary)
  • Child*
  • Infan*
  • Adolescen*
  • Newborn*
  • Toddler*

Patient/Problem (Part 2): Immunization

  • Immunization (controlled vocabulary)
  • Vaccination (controlled vocabulary)
  • Immuniz*
  • Vaccinat*

Intervention: Distraction

  • Distract*

Outcome: Pain/Anxiety

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Anxious

Topic: How does obesity promote tumor development?

Obesity:

  • Obes*
  • Obesity (Controlled Topic)
  • Overweight (Controlled Topic)
  • Overweight*

Tumor:

  • Tumor*
  • Tumour*
  • Neoplasm (Controlled Vocabulary)
  • Cancer (Controlled Vocabulary)
  • Neoplasm*
  • Cancer*

Development:

  • Develop*
  • Grow*

Step 3: How do you Combine Terms?

Terms are combined using Boolean Operators (AND, OR, and NOT).

The simplest way to think about using Boolean Operators is to combine similar terms (same concept) with OR, and dissimilar terms (different concepts) with AND. The operator NOT should be used with extreme caution.

Topic: In the pediatric population, do distraction techniques during immunization result in less pain and anxiety?

(Vaccination-CV OR vaccinat* OR Immunization-CV OR immuniz*) AND (Pain-CV OR pain OR Anxiety-CV OR anxiet* OR anxious) AND (Child-CV OR Adolescent-CV OR Infant-CV OR Preschool Child-CV OR child* OR adolescen* OR infan* OR toddler* OR preschool* OR newborn*)

 

Note: CV = Controlled Vocabulary

Topic: How does obesity promote tumor development?

(Obesity -CV OR Obese* OR Overweight - CV OR Overweight*) AND (Tumor* OR Tumour* OR Neoplasm - CV OR Cancer - CV OR Neoplasm* OR Cancer*) AND (Develop* OR Grow*)

 

Note: CV = Controlled Vocabulary