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A Guide to Evidence Synthesis

Translating Search Strategies Background

Translating Search Strategies


Evidence synthesis methods require authors to search multiple databases, and not all databases accept the same search "syntax." Each individual database requires use of specialized search syntax, and therefore evidence synthesis search strategies must be 'translated' between databases. 

For example, a search for vitamin D[tiab] in PubMed will show you all citations with the phrase "vitamin D" in the title, abstract, or keywords, but a search for vitamin D[tiab] in Web of Science will not work at all. 

Below is a template that you can use to document your search strategy translations and results, as well as search syntax translation tools and examples. Contact a librarian for assistance with search syntax translation. 

Search Syntax Translation Tools

Search Syntax Translation Resources

Search Syntax Translation Examples

MEDLINE (via PubMed)

Note:

  • Click on "Advanced" below the search bar for line by line searching
  • The Medical Subject Headings [MeSH] tag searches for articles tagged with that MeSH term. See below for a short video on MeSH terms.
  • [MeSH:noexp] = the MeSH term is not "exploded" aka it does not include or search narrower terms
  • [tiab] tag searches for terms in the title, collection title, abstract, other abstract, or keywords
  • Truncation is denoted byand searches for all endings of a particular word
    • For phrases, only truncate the last word of the phrase
  • There is no wildcard searching (none or more unknown characters) in PubMed

1

weight gain[MeSH:noexp] OR overweight[MeSH]

2

obes*[tiab] OR weight gain[tiab] OR overweight[tiab] OR over weight[tiab]

3

#1 OR #2

MEDLINE (via Ovid)

Note:

  • Navigate to the "Advanced Search" tab for line by line searching
  • MeSH term tag represented by /
  • “exp” means the MeSH term is “exploded” aka includes and searches all narrower terms
  • The .ti,ab,kw. tag searches for terms in the title, abstract, and keywords
  • Only accepts straight quotations marks  
    • " " NOT “ ” 
    • Type quotation marks manually into database
  • Truncation is denoted by * and searches for all endings of a particular word
    • Accepted inside quotation marks, but only truncate the last word of the phrase
  • Wildcards (none or one unknown character) are denoted by ?

1

exp weight gain/ OR exp overweight/

2

(obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight").ti,ab,kw.

3

#1 OR #2

4 (an?emi* OR "iron deficien*").ti,ab,kw.
5 #3 AND #5

CINAHL

Note:

  • Use “CINAHL Headings” represented by MH
  • The + means the term is “exploded” aka includes and searches all narrower terms
  • TX searches for terms in the full text and citation record
  • Quotation marks should be used to search exact phrases
  • Truncation (all endings of a particular word) and wildcards (none or more unknown characters) are denoted by *
    • Accepted inside quotation marks

1

MH(“weight gain+”)

2

TX(obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight")

3

#1 OR #2

4 TX(an*emi* OR "iron deficien*")
5 #3 AND #5

Web of Science (Use this syntax for CABI, FSTA, BIOSIS, and SciELO)  

Note:

  • Navigate to the "Advanced Search" tab for line by line searching
  • There are no headings for searching the Web of Science Core Collection, but there are headings in CABI, FSTA, and BIOSIS)
  • TS= searches for terms in the title, abstract, author keywords, and Keywords Plus®
  • Quotation marks should be used to search exact phrases or if you would not like inflected forms of a word searched 
  • Truncation is denoted by * and searches for all endings of a particular word
    • Accepted inside quotation marks
  • Wildcards (none or one unknown character) are denoted by $

1

TS=(obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight")

2 TS=(an$emi* OR "iron deficien*")
3 #1 AND #2

Scopus

Note:

  • Click on "Advanced" below the search bar for line by line searching
  • There are no headings in Scopus
  • TITLE-ABS-KEY searches for terms in the title, abstract, and keywords
  • Curly brackets should be used to search exact phrases or if you would not like inflected forms of a word searched
  • Quotation marks should be used to search for when variations of two or more words appear together in the title, abstract, or keywords 
  • Truncation (all endings of a particular word) and wildcards (none or more unknown characters) are denoted by *
    • Accepted inside quotation marks, but not curly brackets

1

TITLE-ABS-KEY(obes* OR {weight gain} OR overweight OR {over-weight})

2 TITLE-ABS-KEY(an*emi* OR "iron deficien*")
3 #1 AND #2

 

Gray Lit and Regional Database Syntax

Gray Literature and Regional Database Search Strategies


Search strategies for gray literature and regional databases often have to be distilled significantly from the main search strategy. This is due to the fact that many gray literature and regional databases cannot handle complex search strategies and special syntax. In addition, searching gray literature and regional databases with all the terms from the main search strategy sometimes returns far too many results to screen. The recommended method of simplifying a search strategy is to combine a few of the most important terms from each key concept of your research question. See an example below.

 

Research Question: What is the effectiveness of Vitamin B12 supplements in reducing morbidity in pregnant women with HIV infection?

  • Key Concept 1 distilled terms: B12, B 12, cobalamin
  • Key Concept 2 distilled terms: pregnancy/pregnant, gestate/gestation/gestational
  • Key Concept 3 distilled terms: ​HIV, human immunodeficiency virus

Distilled Search Strategy: (B12 OR "B 12" OR cobalamin) AND (pregnan* OR gestat*) AND (HIV OR "human immunodeficiency virus")

 

The following box contains search syntax translation information for select gray literature and regional database.

Gray Lit and Regional Database Syntax

OpenGrey

Note:

  • There is no line by line searching in OpenGrey
    • Everything must be entered in one line using parantheses
  • Use quotation marks for exact phrases
  • Truncation is denoted by * and searches for all endings of a particular word
    • Truncation is accepted inside quotation marks
  • There is no wildcard (none or more unknown characters) searching in OpenGrey
  • The + symbol can be used to run an exact search for the term after the operator
    • e.g.: entering  +windmills  will search for all documents which contain the exact word windmills and will ignore the singular form windmill
  • Click on the ? symbol next to the search bar to learn more about OpenGrey searching and syntax
1 (obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight") AND (anemi* OR anaemi* OR "iron deficien*")

 

Cochrane Library

Note:

  • You can search the Cochrane Library using MeSH terms
    • To add MeSH terms to your search, search for the term in the Medical Terms (MeSH) tab, select the correct one, and click "Add to search manager"
    • Selecting "Single MeSH term (unexploded) before adding it to your search manager means the MeSH term is not "exploded" aka it does not include or search narrower terms
  • :ti,ab,kw tag searches for terms in the title, abstract, and key words. These search strings can be entered directly into the search manager
  • Quotation marks should be used to search exact phrases
    • ​No truncation or wildcards are accepted inside quotation marks
      • ​Use NEXT operator
  • Truncation is denoted by * and searches for all forms of a particular word
  • Wildcards (none or one unknown character) are denoted by ?
    • Doesn't work when used in conjunction with truncation
  • Click on the "? Search Help" button to learn more about Cochrane Library searching and syntax
1 MeSH descriptor: [Weight Gain] explode all trees
2 MeSH descriptor: [Overweight] explode all trees
3 (obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight"):ti,ab,kw
4 #1 OR #2 OR #3
5 MeSH descriptor: [Anemia] explode all trees
6 (anemi* OR anaemi* OR iron NEXT deficien*):ti,ab,kw
7 #5 OR #6 
8 #4 AND #7

ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global (PQD&T)

Note:

  • Navigate to "Advanced Search" for line by line searching
  • NOFT searches for terms in the Author Name, Abstract, Title, Subject Terms, Keywords, Advisor, School, Department, School Location, Manuscript Type, Publication number, ISBN)  
  • Use quotation marks to search exact phrases
    • Punctuation is ignored inside quotation marks
      • e.g. "die off" = "die-off"
    • Truncation and wildcards are accepted inside quotation marks
  • Truncation is denoted by * or [*n] where n equals the max number of characters you'd like to additionally search
    • e.g. anemi[*2] will search for anemia, anemic, anemias, etc.
  • Wildcards (none or one unknown character) are denoted by ?
    • Multiple wildcards can be used in a row at one time in this database
  • Click on "Search Tips" above the search bar to learn more about PQD&T searching and syntax
1 NOFT(obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight") 
2 NOFT(an?emi[*2] OR "iron deficien*")
3 #1 AND #2

WHO Library Database (WHOLIS)

Note:

  • Navigate to "Advanced Search" for line by line searching
  • Use quotation marks for exact phrase searching
    • Truncation is accepted inside quotation marks
  • Truncation is denoted by * and searches for all forms of a particular word
  • There is no wildcard (none or more unknown characters) searching in WHOLIS
1   Keyword obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight"
2 and Keyword anemi* OR anaemi* OR "iron deficien*"

iAH Form (use this syntax to search LILACS, PAHO, IBECS, and IMEMR)

Note:

  • Navigate to "Advanced Search" for line by line searching
  • Search in the "Words" field
  • No need to use quotation marks for exact phrase searching
  • Truncation is denoted by $ and searches for all endings of a particular word
  • There is no wildcard (none or more unknown characters) searching using the iAH form
1   obes$ OR weight gain OR overweight OR over weight
2 and anemi$ OR anaemi$ OR iron deficien$

African Index Medicus (AIM)

Note:

  • There is no line by line searching in AIM
    • Everything must be entered in one line using parantheses in the "Quick Search" box
  • Use quotation marks for exact phrase searching
    • ​No truncation or wildcards are accepted inside quotation marks
  • Truncation (all endings of a particular word) and wildcards (none or more unknown characters) are denoted by *
    • Should not be used in the same word
  • Click on the "Help" box next to the search bar to learn more about AIM searching and syntax
1 (obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight") + (anemi* OR anaemi* OR "iron deficient" OR "iron deficiency")

 

Western Pacific Region Index Medicus (WPRIM)

Note:

  • Click on the "Advanced Search" button for line by line searching
  • WPRIM doesn't accept quotation marks, truncation, or wildcards
  • You can search WPRIM using MeSH terms 
  • Each term must be searched separately and then combined using the "Add to Builder" option
  • Click "Help" in the upper left-hand corner of the page to learn more about WPRIM searching and syntax
1 MeSH overweight
OR MeSH weight gain
OR All obese
OR All obesity
OR All weight gain
OR All overweight
OR All over weight

Click "Add to History" then enter the terms below.

2 MeSH anemia
OR All anemia
OR All anaemia
OR All anemic
OR All anaemic
OR All iron deficiency
OR All iron deficient

Click "Add to History" then combine the first and second search string to the Builder by clicking "Add" under the "Add to Builder" column in the search history table. You should see something similar to what is displayed below. Then click "Search"

3 Default MeSH:overweight OR MeSH:weight gain OR All:obese OR All:obesity OR All:weight gain OR All:overweight OR All:over weight 
AND Default MeSH:anemia OR All:anemia OR All:anaemia OR All:anemic OR All:anaemic OR All:iron deficiency OR All:iron deficient

Index Medicus for South-East Asia Region (IMSEAR)

Note:

  • There is no line by line searching in AIM
    • Everything must be entered in one line using parantheses in the "Search DSpace" box
  • Use quotation marks for exact phrase searching
    • ​No truncation is accepted inside quotation marks
  • Truncation is denoted by * and searches for all forms of a particular word
  • There is no wildcard (none or more unknown characters) searching in IMSEAR
  • Click "Help" in the upper left-hand corner of the page to learn more about IMSEAR searching and syntax
1 (obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight") AND (anemi* OR anaemi* OR "iron deficient" OR "iron deficiency")

Native Health Database (NHD)

Note:

  • There is no line by line searching in NHD
    • Everything must be entered in one line using parantheses in the "Basic Search" box
  • Use quotation marks for exact phrase searching
    • Truncation is accepted inside quotation marks
  • Truncation is denoted by * and searches for all forms of a particular word
  • There is no wildcard (none or more unknown characters) searching in NHD
  • Click on the "To learn more about searching the Native Health Database" link below the search box to learn more about NHD searching and syntax
1 (obes* OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight") AND (anemi* OR anaemi* OR "iron deficien*")

China Academic Journals (CNKI)

Note:

  • Click on "Advanced Search" to the right of the search bar to navigate to line by line searching
  • Each term must be searched separately and only 2 synonyms can be combined from each key concept
  • CNKI doesn't accept quotation marks, truncation, or wildcards
  • Recommended fields to search include Keyword or Abstract
  • The search builder should appear similar to what is displayed below
  Keyword/Abstract obesity Or overweight
And Keyword/Abstract anemia Or iron deficiency

Scholarly Academic Information Navigator​ (CiNii)

Note:

  • There is no line by line searching in CiNii
    • Everything must be entered in one line using parantheses in the "Freeword" box
  • Use quotation marks for exact phrase searching
    • No truncation is accepted inside quotation marks
  • CiNii doesn't properly search using truncation or wildcards

(obese OR obesity OR "weight gain" OR overweight OR "over weight") AND (anemia OR anemic OR anaemia OR anaemic OR "iron deficient" OR "iron deficiency")