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NTR 290 - Evidence Based Nutrition: PubMed Search Sample

Relevant resources for Evidence-Based Nutrition gathered in one location

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Searching Strategies - why bother?

   "From the standpoint of general effectiveness in searching,... the searcher with the widest range of search strategies available is the searcher with the greatest retrieval power."

Marcia J. Bates,THE DESIGN OF BROWSING AND BERRYPICKING TECHNIQUES FOR THE ONLINE SEARCH INTERFACE, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of California at Los Angeles


Pubmed citations to RefWorks

See the step by step instructions on the RefWorks Library Guide, Adding References page - Exporting PubMed References

Search Strategies

Once you've chosen a topic and have created a focused research question, you're ready to search the literature!

  • Topic: How can we improve healthcare and lower costs?
  • Research question: Can the use of electronic healthcare records systems improve the quality and cost of healthcare?

General Searching Tips for most research databases, including Google Scholar:

  • Use " " to search for a specific phrase like "electronic health records"
  • Use * to get all forms of a word: child* = child, children, childhood
  • Use ( ) with OR between synonyms to group synonyms for expanded searching: (AZ OR Arizona)
  • Use AND between synonym groups to add groups together in keyword searching: (AZ OR Arizona) AND (child* OR adolescen* OR teen*)

Below are 4 major search strategies:

  • Basic Keyword search
    • Advantages - quick and easy, uses everyday words and phrases or discipline-specific terminology; likely to get most up to date results including references that haven't been indexed wtih the research databases' subject headings
    • Disadvantages - may not retrieve all of the best results; depends on the words you choose to use
  • Synonyms Keyword search
    • Advantages - broader than a basic keyword search, gets more results, you can use everyday words and discipline-specific terminology
    • Disadvantages - may not retrieve all of the best results; depends on the words you choose to use
  • Targeted Keyword search (searching for keywords in the title of references, or in the title and abstract of references
    • Advantages - often more relevant results since the title or the title&abstract will reference the most important topics of the study/article; Use the Subject Headings (listed in each article's information) or other important keywords you see in these highly relevant results to build another, more expanded search
    • Disadvantages - more restrictive than general keyword searching
  • Subject Heading search
    • Advantages - get targeted, subject-specific results quickly, regardless of the words used in the title, abstract, or elsewhere
    • Disadvantages - may not retrieve the most up to date results if those results haven't had subject headings applied to them; may not match up with all articles on the topic, though it should get the majority of the topic-focused results

Basic Keyword Search

First Basic Keyword Search

cost effective healthcare and electronic healthcare records

Synonyms Keyword Search

Expanded Synonyms Keyword Search

  • Group synonyms with ()
  • Use all caps for the OR between each synonym in the groups, and for the AND between each group of synonyms

(cost OR cost-effectiv*) AND (health care OR healthcare) AND (electronic health records OR EHR)

Targeted Keyword Search - in Title or Title/Abstract

Targeted Keyword Search

  • More relevant results
  • May leave out results that use different words to describe the topic, and/or that don't use these keywords in the title or in the abstract

Keywords in Title:

  • use [ti] after each keyword

(cost[ti] OR cost-effectiv*[ti]) AND (health care[ti] OR healthcare[ti]) AND (electronic health records[ti] OR EHR[ti])

Keywords in Title/Abstract:

  • use [title/abstract] after each keyword

(cost[title/abstract] OR cost-effectiv*[title/abstract]) AND (health care[title/abstract] OR healthcare[title/abstract]) AND (electronic health records[title/abstract] OR EHR[title/abstract])

Keywords in Title:

Keywords in Title/Abstract:

Subject Heading Search

Subject Heading Search:

  • In PubMed, the subject headings are called 'MeSH' - Medical Subject Headings.  Cochrane Library, CINAHL, and some other databases use MeSH or similar headings as well
  • Most research databases use subject headings of some type
  • In PubMed, use [mh] or [Mesh] after each keyword

(Not sure what the MeSH subject headings are for your topic?  See below for how to search the MeSH index.)

PubMed MeSH Search

 (("Costs and Cost Analysis"[Mesh] OR "Cost-Benefit Analysis"[Mesh] OR "Health Care Costs"[Mesh] OR "Hospital Costs"[Mesh])) AND "Electronic Health Records"[Mesh])

Search the MeSH Index for a MeSH heading

Subject Guide

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