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Systematic searching: 5. Focusing the search

Focusing the search

It is possible to choose which fields the search terms must be found in. The fields most commonly used in a subject-based search are the title of the article, the abstract and the subject headings. Use the drop-down menus next to search boxes to focus the search to, e.g. Title,  Abstract, and Subject. These focusing options are always database-specific and should be checked in the database's own guidelines.

Ways to focus the search:

  • In Medline/PubMed, you can use the field code [tw] for keywords, which will search for keywords, in several fields of articles in the database, that contain text, but not author affiliation data, author names or journal names. This type of focusing is generally suitable for review searches. MeSH keywords, on the other hand, are tagged with [Mesh]. For more information on field codes and how to use them efficiently, please consult the Medline (PubMed) guide
  • In CINAHL, keywords are by default focused to titles, abstracts and subject headings. This  is generally suitable for review searches. CINAHL subject headings are identified by a field code (MH).
  • In Scopus, keywors are by default focused to titles, abstracts and subject headings. This targeting is generally suitable for review searches. 

Example topic

Nursing students' hand hygiene skills

Keywords with field codes and MeSH subject headings, for Medline/PubMed. 

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
student nurses[tw] handwashing[tw] competence[tw]
nursing students[tw] hand washing[tw] skills[tw]
nursing pupils[tw] hand hygiene[tw] knowledge[tw]
pupil nurses[tw] hand sanitation[tw] know-how[tw]
nursing education[tw] hand sanitization[tw] knowhow[tw]
"Students, Nursing"[Mesh] hand disinfection[tw] "Professional Competence"[Mesh]
"Education, Nursing"[Mesh] hand cleansing[tw] "Mental Competency"[Mesh]
hand cleaning[tw] "Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice"[Mesh]
surgical scrubbing[tw]
"Hand Hygiene"[Mesh]

Nursing students' hand hygiene skills

Keywords with field codes and CINAHL headings, for CINAHL

Käsite 1 Käsite 2 Käsite 3
student nurses handwashing competence
nursing students hand washing skills
nursing pupils hand hygiene knowledge
pupil nurses hand sanitation know-how
nursing education  hand sanitization knowhow
(MH "Students, Nursing+") hand disinfection (MH "Professional Competence+")
(MH "Education, Nursing+") hand cleansing (MH "Clinical Competence+")
hand cleaning (MH "Student Knowledge")
surgical scrubbing (MH "Nursing Knowledge")
(MH "Handwashing")
(MH "Surgical Scrubbing")

PubMed: Filters and Field Tags

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