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MHIKNET: Creating an Effective Search Strategy

Creating a Effective Database Search Strategy


  1. Plan your search: A literature search always begins with a well-planned research question. 
  • Example of a search question:

Does giving oral supplements with vitamin D alone, or in combination with calcium, to women during pregnancy, improve maternal and neonatal outcomes?


  1. Identify your key concepts:
  • Using a method such as PICO can help keep you focused:

PICO – Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome

  • Create a list of synonyms for each of the key concepts.
  • Using a table can help keep your organized.


3. Creating the search strategy:

  • The main concepts of your search can be combined in a database with the Boolean operators AND and OR.
    • Use OR to combine the synonyms
    • Use AND to connect the different key concepts.
  • Parenthesis are helpful to group like terms together and keep your search strategy logical.
  • Example of a search strategy:

(pregnant OR pregnancy OR prenatal) AND (“vitamin D” OR calciferol OR ergocalciferol OR viosterol OR cholecarciferol) AND (“pre-eclampsia” OR “gestational diabetes” OR “low birthweight”)