Learn about search strategies and what they do.
When you enter keywords into a database, you are also entering a search strategy. Does your strategy add speed and relevancy to your retrieved citations?
Begin each search with a PICO research question.
PICO Question | Acronym to remind you of elements/keywords to identify when forming a research question.
(P=population, I=Intervention, C=Comparison, O=Outcome/Measurement)
In college students (P) are dietary/nutrition interventions (I) effective compared to no dietary interventions (C) in preventing weight gain?
Browser Search Strategy is the DEFAULT strategy in most databases and retrieves all citations with your PICO keywords appearing somewhere.
Below, example of PICO keywords entered to prompt a DEFAULT search within a database. For instance, PubMED searches the following search strategy as "find all citations with my PICO keywords mentioned somewhere".
college weight gain diet
college AND weight gain AND diet
Advantage= you retrieve all citations where your PICO keywords appear somewhere in the title, abstract, and other searchable fields, usually not a search of the full-text article. Disadvantage = you retrieve citations even when your PICO keywords are not the related, don't answer your PICO question, and are not the major focus of the article. If you retrieve too many articles, you waste time weeding that you need for assignments or workplace best practices.
The Title Search Strategy is the favorite search strategy for "getting started" because it quickly targets citations with your major PICO keywords appearing in the TITLE, which increases the relevancy of retrieved articles. Don't forget the added bonus of the list of references at the end of the article - already vetted by the author.
Just enter [ti] (bracket ti bracket) after each of your PICO keywords in PubMed or use the Advanced Search mode in most other databases and change the drop down menu to TITLE.
college [ti] weight [ti] diet [ti]
...more synonyms require isolation and parentheses around each PICO element and insertion of AND to separate, see following example
(college [ti] OR freshman [ti] OR undergraduate [ti]) AND (diet [ti] OR fruits [ti] OR vegetables [ti])
Advantage= you retrieve all citations where your PICO keywords appear somewhere in the title, which increases your chances that the article will be relevant to your PICO question. Disadvantage = you could miss citations where the author/researcher uses a different keyword for your PICO element, which requires you to note other keywords that are used for you PICO elements and search using those, too.
Below, example of the Bulls-eye strategy entered into PubMed. Most other databases provide an Advanced Search mode and drop down menus that you can change to a TITLE search.
college [ti] weight [ti] fruit [ti]
college [ti] weight [ti] vegetables [ti]
(college [ti] OR undergraduates [ti] OR campus [ti] OR freshman [ti]) AND weight [ti] AND (fruits [ti] OR vegetables [ti] OR diet [ti])
The Evidence-based Strategy is the most rigorous search strategy using all search strategies and searching all relevant databases. Advantage=This strategy is meant to identify all best evidence and, within reasonable certainty, confirm that no relevant evidence is missed.Disadvantage=This rigorous SS requires extensive time and organization/documentation of citations and search history and is more often required for major papers, projects, and evidence-based practice.
Default SS college weight diet
Title SS college [ti] weight [ti] diet [ti]
...more synonyms (college [ti] OR campus [ti] OR undergraduates [ti] OR freshmen [ti])
AND (diet [ti] OR fruit [ti] OR vegetables [ti])
The MeSH uses the power of MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) in PubMed to increase relevancy, speed, and rigor in the retrieval of citations. Advantages= This strategy retrieves citations where your topic is at least 25% of the focus, where other synonyms are already mapped to the term, and any other major narrow terms that you may not know about or remember are also retrieved. Disadvantages=Although MeSH is powerful, there can be delays in assigning MeSH to terms for a variety of reasons so that both the keyword and MeSH search strategy should be searched in PubMed to perform a rigorous search.
universities [mh] weight gain [mh] diet [mh]
universities [mh] AND (fruits [mh] diet [mh] vegetables [mh])