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Literature Reviews: Conducting the search

Conducting The Search

Identify key words, terms and phrases

In addition to entering key words, using subject headings can be helpful when you need to do a more thorough search or if your concept has many possible synonyms. 

Some databases use subject headings to identify one term to describe a concept. Every article about that concept is tagged with this subject heading. If you search using a subject heading, you will retrieve every article about that concept. Search PubMed for "Mobile Phone"[MeSH] and you will retrieve articles about all types and brands of cell phones.

Document your searches to:

  • Keep track of your search terms 
  • Keep track of the databases you've searched
  • Reuse successful search terms in multiple databases
  • Describe your search methods in your paper (if needed)
  • Provide evidence of a thorough search

Writing down which databases you searched, the keywords or subject headings used, the date, and number of results will help you improve future searches.

Databases To Search

Databases index journals and no single database includes all journals in a particular subject area. PubMed is a common starting point for health sciences reviews. You should use other database in addition to PubMed. Some of the more common databases are listed below.  Check the A-Z list of databases for a complete list.

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