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Health (Nursing, Medicine, Allied Health)

Guide to research sources and tools for locating health evidence in books, journals, databases.

Saving Searches in Database Accounts

If you're working on crafting a search strategy that you intend to you return to repeatedly, edit, and revise, it can be extremely helpful to save that strategy in the database for later updates.  Additionally, if you will need to report your database search strategies as part of a description of your literature review methods, saving a copy of your searches is essential.

Most of the core health sciences databases offer you the option of creating an account and saving your own searches.  See the resources below for information about creating your personal database accounts and saving searches.    

Medline via PubMed 

CINAHL Complete

PsycNET (with PsycINFO)

PsycINFO via Ovid

Saving Search Terms in External Documents

In addition to saving searches in the native database account where they were conducted, it may also be helpful to save them in an external document, which offers more flexibility for tracking the iterations of the search and making notes about useful/not useful terms.  The resources below may be helpful for documenting your search terms

A Reproducible Search String

When you save your search strategy outside of the native database environment, it is helpful to include sufficient details to make it as reproducible as possible.  You should note:

  • The name and platform of the database you searched (e.g. CINAHL via EBSCO or PsycINFO via PsycNET)
  • The terms you searched
  • How they were combined with Boolean operators (ANDs / ORs)
  • The database specific syntax you used
    • If you searched specific fields using field tags (e.g. the subject field, using the tag MH). If you did not specify the field, it's likely you searched for terms in 'all fields'.
    • Database-specific punctuation you used 
  • The date you performed the search

Many databases allow you to save or download the details of a search query to your computer. For more specific instructions, see:

The image below shows an annotated example of a reproducible search query, with information about the different operators and elements.

Reproducible search string, showing field tags, punctuation, filtering and database information.