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Embase Help Guide

Guide to searching Embase, a biomedical database focused on drugs and pharmacology, medical devices, clinical medicine, and basic sciences relevant to clinical medicine.

Video Demonstration

Step-by-Step Instructions

Quick Search

Please note: Embase is updated constantly, so don’t worry if your results don’t match the ones in the images exactly.

Step 1: Enter Your Terms

Go to the Embase home page and select Quick Search.

Type any key word or phrase into the Search box. Use an asterisk (*) to retrieve variations on a word, e.g., bacter* retrieves bacteria, bacterium, bacteriophage, etc. As you add terms, the search button will show the number of articles your search will pull up.

You may add more search terms in additional lines, adjusting their Boolean operator (AND, OR, NOT) and field dropdown menu as needed.

If desired, limit the search by publication year, date entered by Embase, or some types of publication. More limiters will be available on the results page.

  • For a Subject Search: Leave the dropdown menu on Quick Search. Enter one or more words (e.g., asthma drug therapy) in the Search box. Embase automatically "ANDs" (combines) terms together so that all terms or concepts are present. Suggestions for Emtree terms will appear as you type, along with the number of articles tagged with that term. The Quick Search will search on your word or phrase as both Emtree terms and free text.
  • For an Author Search: To retrieve articles by a particular author, change the dropdown menu to Author Name and enter the author's name in the format of last name first followed by first initial (e.g., byrnes c), or use the Author Search
  • For a Journal Search: To retrieve articles from a specific journal, change the dropdown menu to Journal Name, abbreviated name, or ISSN and enter the corresponding information, or use the Article Search.

Graphical presentation of Quick Search instructions

Step 2: Click on the Search Button

Click Search or press Enter on your keyboard to run your search.

Step 3: View Your Results 

Top bar of results list in Embase

At the top of the results list you will find the number of results and several options for viewing your results. By default, results are shown in order of publication year. You can adjust the display order to show results in the order of how well they match your search according to Embase's algorithms, by author, or by date entered into Embase. Citations are displayed in Summary format, up to 25 per page. You can change the display to include abstracts by clicking 'Show all abstracts'. To increase the number of citations per page (up to 200), scroll to the bottom of the page and select a different number in the 'Records per page' dropdown menu.

Step 4: Set Your Filters

At the top and left of your results page you will see options for filtering or limiting your search. Unlike in PubMed, selecting a filter will not automatically affect the results displayed. For the filters on the left, select your filters then click Apply. For the filters at the top, select your filter then click the Search button. In both cases, the filter will be added to your search string and the new results will incorporate that filter.

Combining Searches

You may combine previous searches by clicking the box beside the searches, selecting AND or OR, then clicking the Combine button

or add additional terms to an existing search by clicking the search number to display additional options to add the search to the Builder OR using the pound sign (#) before the search number, e.g., #2 AND #6 or #3 AND drug therapy in the Builder boxes.

Embase Syntax

Quick reference guide for Embase's syntax. Some things have PubMed equivalents, but othersmay not.

  • Subject headings: Emtree. /exp for exploded terms; /de for unexploded terms - 'emergency health service'/exp
  • Search for term in Title, Abstract, and Keywords fields: :ti,ab,kw - ('health behavio*'):ti,ab,kw
    • Limit search to Title field: :ti - 'health behavio*':ti
    • Limit search to Abstract field: :ab - 'health behavio*':ab
    • Limit search to Keywords field: :kw - 'health behavio*':kw
  • Also search for term in the descriptors (Emtree): :de - ('health behavio*'):ti,ab,kw,de
  • Proximity searching: NEAR/X where X= one term will be within X number of words of the other in any order; NEXT/X in the order in which they're entered - chronic NEAR/3 pain retrieves chronic pain, chronic pelvic pain, and chronic low back pain, among others.
  • Does not reliably guess phrases: use quotes around phrases or use proximity operators
  • Truncation/asterisk: works on single words, within phrases or at the end of phrases, including within quotes: 'metabol* disorder*'.

Hints for Improving Search Results

No References or Too Few References

  • Look for misspellings in your strategy.
  • Decrease the number of concepts searched.
  • Try a broader search term.
  • Use a term from the thesaurus (i.e., Emtree) for searching. In the search results, scan the list of Emtree terms assigned to relevant articles and add any relevant Emtree terms to your search to find more articles like the relevant article(s) you found. 
  • Use the Related Articles feature.
  • Check for missing or incorrect field qualifiers.
  • Remove terms that are unlikely to be used by an author.
  • Replace terms that are too general or too specific.
  • Increase the number of synonyms or alternatives for a term.
  • Use a truncation symbol at the end of a term to pick up variant endings. The asterisk (*) is the truncation symbol used in PubMed.  Example: asthm* will retrieve asthma or asthmatic.
  • Try running the search on earlier years of the database.
  • Try a different database.

Too Many References

  • Choose the most specific subject headings or most significant key words.
  • Use subheadings to narrow the focus of the subject heading if appropriate.
  • Increase the number of search concepts that are ANDed together.
  • Use fewer synonyms for terms.
  • Make a term from the thesaurus (i.e. subject heading list or controlled vocabulary) the "Major focus" of the article (/mj in Embase).
  • Limit results by using Filters on the search results screen (e.g., type of article, language, age group, current years, etc.).
  • Change search so significant words must be in the TITLE of the article.