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Subject heading search tips

In databases that use subject heading searching eg the advanced search in CINAHL Plus and the Ovid databases such as Medline and APA PsycINFO, you are mapped or directed to the most relevant subject heading(s) relating to the word or phrase you have typed in the search box, but often a different word or list of words may be presented.

  • When you are presented with a list of subject headings, select the most relevant one.

  • If there is no relevant subject heading, search using your key word.

  • When you have done a key word search select a few relevant records. Check to see if these records have subject headings; if so, and the headings are relevant, use them to do more searching.

  • If you need to do a comprehensive search eg for a systematic review, use both key words and subject headings in eg  your Medline search. This will pick up articles not yet assigned subject headings and ensure complete coverage of all search terms.
    Example search:
         -  / indicates a subject heading, in this example a MeSH
         -  exp indicates the subject heading is exploded
         -  tw indicates a keyword search and the words occur in the title and/or abstract  
For complete search strategy see:
Dong Z, Xu J, Wang Z, Petrov MS. Stents for the prevention of pancreatic fistula following pancreaticoduodenectomy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD008914. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD008914.pub3



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