Below are some common techniques used when searching research databases, and how they can help you find the information you're looking for.
How AND works:
And tells the search tool that you are using to find articles that use both/all of your search terms and to ignore articles that might use just one of your search terms
Searching for "Heart Disease AND smoking" will retrieve articles that discuss heart disease as it relates to smoking, but will not retrieve articles on heart disease that focus on other factors
How OR works:
Searches with OR will tell the search tool to find articles that use either of your search terms, even if an article contains one term and not the other(s)
You might search for similar keywords and use OR between them. Searching for "Venous Thrombosis OR Deep Vein Thrombosis" will find articles that use either term
How quotation marks work:
Placing a phrase in quotation marks will tell the search tool that you want to find an exact match for that phrase, as opposed to articles that match just part of the phrase.
Searching for "Evidence Based Medicine" in quotation marks, as shown, will prioritize results that have that exact phrase over articles that just have part of the phrase, such as "medicine" only.
How to incorporate medical terms into your searches:
When searching in databases that have mostly or exclusively medical and health literature, scientific terminology will help you get more precise results.
Searching for Myocarditis can be more effective than searching for "heart inflammation."
Subject Terms are a more precise way to search for articles, and knowing how to search by Subject can help you find the most relevant information for your topic. Knowing what subject to search for is difficult, though.
One way to locate subject terms is to look closely at an article you've already found. For example, here's a link to a Systematic Review on Stroke Rehabilitation from the Cochrane Database. If you follow the link, you'll see the publication details, followed by the "abstract" or summary of the article. Below that are Medical Subject Headings used the describe the article, shown here:
Each one of those headings is a link that can be clicked on to read other articles that use the same subject terms.
Subjects are standardized, so every article on a given subject should be assigned the same term. A keyword search will generally be less accurate than a subject search.
Clinical research questions are often framed using the abbreviation PICO. The elements of a PICO question are:
Thinking about your clinical research question in terms of its PICO components can be a helpful way to begin the literature review process.
Evidence-based medicine techniques can be carried out using a variety of sources. Some types of sources are defined below:
Reminder: The Cochrane Database of systematic reviews is a great resources for this research! Clinical guidelines can be found in DynaMed. Check the Finding Articles tab for further descriptions of these resources.
* A double-blind, randomized controlled trial is considered the "gold standard" in medical research. It helps to ensure that the results are free from bias from either the experimenter or the participants.
Huston, P. (2012). Evidence-based medicine. In S. Lock, J. Last, & G. Dunea (Ed.). Oxford Companion to Medicine (3rd ed.) Oxford: Oxford University Press