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University of Washington Health Sciences Library

Systematic Reviews: SR and other comprehensive literature search project support

Database Search Tips

Find published reviews on similar topics, and read methods sections which may contain exact search strategies used. Full search strategies often are provided in appendices of Cochrane reviews.

See HSL Database Searching Guides

or Help sections of specific databases for search examples.

PubMed Help


Yale MeSH Analyzer - tool to create search strategies. Gather MeSH terms from articles and display common and unique terms in Excel.

Grey Literature for Health Sciences - UBC Health Library

Grey Matters - (CADTH) "a practical tool for searching health-related grey literature"

Translating strategies to run in multiple databases


Embase  search syntax (

searchterm:ti,ab,de to look for words in the titles, abstracts or descriptors, ORed with Emtree terms qualified with either :de if you don’t want the term exploded (‘exploded’ meaning narrower terms beneath a term in the subject lists are included), or /exp if you do want to include narrower terms.  

To get the correct syntax, search within Emtree (Embase thesaurus), then  "Add to Query Builder", then use the options below the search box to filter for date range etc. Then copy the resulting output to your search strategy.

Phrases surrounded by single quotes. Truncation (*) works within phrases. To include singular and plural:
‘health service*’:ti,ab,de 

To eliminate some of the PubMed overlap:
AND [embase]/lim NOT ([embase]/lim AND [medline]/lim)

Using the 'Sources' results filter on the left of the search screen, and choosing Embase, adds the above phrase to your search.

To limit by language: AND english:la
By date range: AND [1990-2015]/py

To limit to articles (not conference abstracts)
AND (‘article’/it OR ‘article in press’/it OR ‘review’/it OR ‘short survey’/it)  

Another option - AND [article]/lim

NOT ([note]/lim OR [conference abstract]/lim OR [conference paper]/lim OR [conference review]/lim OR [editorial]/lim)

To float a subheading: diagnosis:lnk


CINAHL search syntax (Ebsco)

MH for subject headings. Add + at the end of the subject heading to Explode terms (include narrower terms).
To search in the title field, add TI before the word or phrase. Use TW if you want to search in both title/abstract/additional fields. Adjacency searching is possible, so typing something like ‘emergency hospital*’ works without surrounding quotes. Truncation/asterisk works on single words, or at the end of phrases.

(MH emergency service+ OR MH emergency medical services+ OR MH emergency medicine+ OR MH hospitals+ OR MH hospital units+ OR emergency department* OR emergency hospital OR emergency hospitals OR emergency medical service* OR emergency medicine OR emergency room* OR emergency service* OR emergency unit OR emergency units OR emergency ward*)


(decision unit* OR observation unit* OR observational unit* OR short stay unit* OR (TI diagnostic AND TI treatment AND (TI emergency OR TI hospital OR TI hospitals OR TI hospitalization* OR TW rapid diagnostic OR TW rapid diagnosis) AND (TI unit OR TI units OR TI center OR TI centers)))

LA english


PY 2002-2019

PT case study OR PT commentary OR PT editorial

PsycInfo search syntax (Ebsco)

(DE "Falls" OR TI falls OR TI falling OR TI fall OR TI faller* OR AB faller* OR TI recurrent fall* OR AB recurrent fall* OR TI fall risk OR AB fall risk OR TI risk of falling OR AB risk of falling) 
(TX risk OR TX risks OR TX predict* OR DE "Risk Assessment" OR DE "Risk Factors" OR DE "Risk Management" OR DE "Harm Reduction" OR DE "Geriatric Assessment" OR TX likelihood) 
(TX model OR TX models OR TX modeling OR MT "Mathematical model" OR TX algorithm OR TX algorithms OR DE "Statistical Regression" OR DE "Linear Regression" OR DE "Logistic Regression" OR DE "Multiple Regression" OR DE "Nonlinear Regression" OR DE "Logistic Regression" OR "decision tree" OR "decision trees" OR "clinical tool" OR "clinical tools") 
(AG "Aged" OR TX elderly OR TX geriatric OR "older adult" OR "older adults" OR "older women" OR "older men" OR "older patients" OR "older people" OR "older persons" OR TX medicare)
(TX community OR TX communities OR DE "Neighborhoods" OR neighborhood* OR home OR homes OR DE "Community Facilities" OR DE "Community Mental Health Centers" OR DE "Housing" OR DE "Aging in Place" OR DE "Assisted Living" OR DE "Dormitories" OR DE "Group Homes" OR DE "Home Environment" OR DE "Living Arrangements" OR DE "living alone" OR DE "Retirement Communities" OR DE "Nursing Homes" OR DE "Group Homes" OR DE "Halfway Houses" OR DE "Community Services" OR DE "Community Mental Health Services" OR DE "Community Welfare Services" OR DE "Emergency Services" OR DE "Home Care" OR DE "Home Visiting Programs" OR DE "Public Health Services" OR TX residential OR TX residence OR DE "Outpatient Treatment" OR DE "Outpatients")
(LA english AND PY 1985-2019)
(MR clinical case study OR MR nonclinical case study OR PZ column/opinion OR PZ comment/reply OR PZ editorial OR TX inpatient OR TX inpatients)

Database Search Filters

Center for Evidence-based Management (CEBMa) methodological search filters for social and organizational sciences research databases

Family Physicians Inquiries Network (FPIN) PubMed search filters for studies related to diagnosis, diagnostic testing, therapy and prognosis. See "CI Librarian Search Filters".

ISSG Search Filters Resource (InterTASC Information Specialists' Sub-Group) Collaborative venture to identify, assess and test search filters designed to retrieve research by study design or focus.

McMaster University evidence-based health informatics Hedges Project search filters

Search Builder 1.0, Excel-based tool to generate, archive, and share search strings for PubMed and Embase. Kamdar BB, Pooja AS. A novel search builder to expedite search strategies for systematic reviews. International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care. 2015: 31; 1-3.

Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) search filters

University of Texas School of Public Health Library Search filters guide 

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