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Systematic Reviews: Health Sciences

A guide for those who want to do a Systematic Review search strategy mainly in the health sciences field.

Database Comparison Chart

 

Option

Medline (OVID)

PubMed

EMBASE.com

CINAHL

COCHRANE

Google

Controlled Vocabulary

MeSH

MeSH

EMTREE

CINAHL
Heading

MeSH

------------

Title

word.ti.

word[ti]

word:TI

TI word

field search

intitle: word
allintitle:words

Title or

Abstract

word.ti,ab.

OR
word.tw,kw.

word[tiab]

OR

word[tw]

word:TI,AB

TI word

OR
AB word

field search

------------

Truncation

word*
colo?r  (0 or 1 character)

word*
Be careful!

word*

wom$n  (0 or 1 character)
wom?n  (only 1 character)

word*
colo#r  (0 or 1 character)

word*
*word
wom?n  (0 or 1 character)

automatic
* represents a word

Adjacency

adj#   (any order)

adj   (same order)

------------

NEAR/#   (any order)
NEXT/#  (same order)

 N#   (any order) 

 W#  (same order)

NEAR (max 6)
NEAR/#
NEXT  (same order)

use * in phrase
"life * death"

Default
Boolean
Phrase

------------

AND ???
"phrase"
Be careful!

------------

"phrase"

AND

"phrase"

AND

"phrase"

More Database Tips

Web of Science (WoS) most useful searching options that are needed for a systematic review search:

Boolean operators:

  • AND (by default) / OR / NOT

Truncation:

  • * external, at beginning of word, or internal and any number of characters.
  • ? internal and only one character
  • $ internal or external represents zero or one character.
  • can use a mixture of truncating symbols in one word ex. *oxid* retrieves antioxidants...

Adjacency: NEAR default value is 15 but can also use NEAR/#

Field searches: many options available but the most useful ones are TI for title, AD for address of author, CF for conference searching, OG for organization name, TS or Topic field searches in title, abstract, author keywords and keywords plus.  

  • TI=("cell death" OR apoptosis)  is valid
  • TI=(cell death OR apoptosis)  is not valid and similarly for TS search.
  • TS=(surgery NEAR "heart block")  is valid
  • TS=(surgery NEAR heart block)  is not valid and similarly for TI searches.

Other options:

  • No controlled vocabulary.
  • automatically finds spelling variations (stemming) in Topic and Title fields; so color also finds colour (to turn this feature off, put " " or use truncation sign * at end of word).
  • Hyphens are considered as spaces, so health-care also gets health care.
  • All authors are indexed with their addresses if available.
  • KeyWord Plus represents words/phrases taken from titles of cited articles within a record and these might retrieve too many irrelevant documents.

ProQuest Resources: such as ERIC, GreenFile, Social Services Abstracts, ProQuest Central (which contains a large list of databases such as 'Health Management Database', 'Nursing & Allied Health Database', 'Public Health Database' etc...)

Boolean Operators:

  • AND (by default) / OR / NOT

Truncation:

  • internal or external truncation and represents one character only
  • * internal or external and represents zero or any number of characters

Adjacency:

  • NEAR  by default is 4
  • NEAR/#  in any order
  • PRE/# in the specified order
  • PRE/0 is identical to a hyphen

Field Search:

  • AU(farha)
  • TI(food)
  • AB,TI(food or nutrition)
  • FI(food)  ..... searches the full-text
  • SU(higher education)
  • SU.EXACT("higher education")
  • YR(200-2016)

Other Options:

  • thesaurus available from advanced search page.
  • Automatically searches for word variations, unless put within " "
  • Advanced search can combine Boolean in one line.
  • searches full-text of documents.
  • select from under 'Advanced search' the option 'Anywhere except full text' instead of the default 'Anywhere'.

SCOPUS most useful searching options that are needed for a systematic review search:

Boolean operators:

  • AND (by default) / OR / AND NOT

Truncation:

  • * external, internal or at beginning of word and represents any number of characters
  • ? internal truncation representing one character only

Field searches:

  • ALL, ABS, CONF, KEY, TITLE, TITLE-ABS, TITLE-ABS-KEY, INDEXTERMS ex. TITLE-ABS-KEY ("heart attack")

Adjacency:

  • PRE/# i.e. first word precedes second by max # of words
  • W/# similar to Medline OVID adj
  • heart* W/2 attack*   is valid
  • heart* W/2 (attack* AND acute)  is not valid, but heart* W/2 (attack* OR acute) is valid
  • one statement can combine more than one adjacency operator but it has to be the same and the same #
  • (heart Pre/3 attack*) OR (heart W/4 attack) is valid as these are two separate statements,
  • (congenital Pre/3 heart W/4 attack)  is not valid, but (congenital Pre/3 heart Pre/3 attack) is valid

Other options:

  • No controlled vocabulary. But can use INDEXTERMS("hepatitis")
  • automatic pleural search
  • stemming
  • can search first or last author
  • to exclude Medline records search FinalResult AND NOT INDEX (Medline)