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Systematic searching: 7. Running the search in databases

Searching in databases

After careful collection and construction of the search strings, it is time to carry out the actual search. Each database works slightly differently, so each search is carried out according to the way each database works. Below we show how to perform a systematic search in Medline (PubMed), Scopus and CINAHL.

In PubMed and CINAHL, the so-called Building block method has been used for the example search. The useful feature of this method is that it allows you to look at the search results in groups of terms before combining them with the AND operator. 

Be careful when copying and pasting your search terms and strings from a Word document. For example, in Scopus, quotes cannot be copied from elsewhere, but must be written in Scopus, as it may not recognise quotation marks (" ") copied from elsewhere as quotation marks and the search will fail. 

Most databases let you to create a personal account, so that you can save searches directly in the database. You are then able to edit the saved searches at a later time, or easily re-run them.

How to search: examples

1. In PubMed, go to Advanced Search

2. Copy and paste the first set of search terms into the Query box.

3. Instead of clicking Search, add the search to the search history by selecting Add to History in the drop-down menu Seach history appears below the query box.

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4. Repeat with the remaining search term sets.

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5. Combine the searches by typing the search numbers into the query box and typing AND in between terms, as shown in the image below.

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6. View the search result list by clicking the figure indicating the number of search results, on the right hand side in the search history.

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7. How to email, save or export the results, and how to set up an alert service: A roadmap for searching literature in PubMed (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
How to sign up in a PubMed account with third party credentials (Google, Facebook, ORCiD)

Search date 1 June 2021. 

1.Copy your search term sets and paste them into the search boxes, each term set into their own lines. For more fields, click the Add search field button. Remember to correct the quotation marks. After this, click Search.

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2. Scopus takes you directly to the search result list. If you need to edit your search, you can do that by clicking the Edit link.

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3. Clicking the Edit link you are taken back to the search screen where you can also see the search history. Return to the search result list by clicking the figure indicating the number of search results.

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4. How to print or save the search results: How do I email, print, or create a bibliography, or save documents to PDF format? 
How to work with saved searches: How do I manage my Saved searches?

Search date 10 May 2021

1. In CINAHL, go to Advanced Search.

2. Copy from the search phrase table the first pre-typed phrase that you want to use, and paste it into the first search box. Click the Search button to run the search. Your search will be saved in the search history. Open the search history by clicking the Search History button below the search boxes.

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3. After this, empty the search box, and copy and paste the second search. Run the search by clicking Search

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4. Do the same with the last search.

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5. Now combine the searches by checking the boxes on the left hand side of each line and clicking the Search with AND button.

NOTE. Before combining the searches remember to empty the search boxes.

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The final search is displayed on top of the search history.

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6. Click View Results to see the result list. 

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7. Instructions for saving your search in CINAHL. For copying or printing the search history, select Print Search History.

Search date 10 May 2021 

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