Advanced Journal Literature Search Tutorial

  • Select Search Options  (1 through 34)

  • Begin at the first option (1. Choose a Database) and scroll down through all following options.

  • Use back to the top link to return to this page as needed.

  • Use linked items in text to cross reference information.

 1. Choose a Database  2. Change Databases
 3. Define Your Search Topic  4. Identify Individual Concepts
 5. Main Search Window  6. Enter Search Terms
 7. Keyword Search  8. Map Term to Subject Heading
 9. Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) 10. Author Search
11. Title Search 12. Journal Search
13. Truncation 14. Command Line Syntax
15. Search Fields 16. Viewing  the Results
17. Search History Window 18. Expand Search History
19. Save/Run Search Buttons 20. Enter Additional terms
21. Broaden Your Search 22. Narrow Your Search
23. Tools 24. Trees
25. Permuted Index 26. Scope Notes
27. Explode 28. Focus
29. Subheadings 30. Combine Terms
31. Limit 32. Title and Citation Display
33. Print, Email and Save 34. Logoff

1. Choose a Database -                                                                      back to top


2. Change Databases -                                                                     back to top




3. Define Your Search Topic                                                          back to top 

Analyze your search needs and define your search topic in your own words. State the topic in a well focused sentence or question. Example: Safety of Intubation in patients with Spinal Cord Injuries.  By defining your specific information needs, searching will be accurate and relevant. This is a preparatory step and not part of the database.

4. Identify Individual Concepts                                                        back to top

 The next step is to break your well focused sentence or question topic into important parts to enter as search terms, such as the patient or subject group, problem, intervention, outcome, and/or type of study that will provide the best information. Example: Intubation, Spinal Cord Injuries This is a preparatory step and not part of the database.

5. Main Search Window                                                                  back to top


6. Enter Search Terms                                                                      back to top 


7. Keyword Search                                                                           back to top


8. Map Term to Subject Heading                                                      back to top

The "Map Term to Subject Heading" checkbox activates the Ovid Mapping feature. When you type your query and click the Perform Search button, you will have the opportunity to select the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) or controlled vocabulary term(s) that most closely matches your desired concept. Ovid automatically checks the Tree or Thesaurus for the most appropriate terms, and displays those terms in a list. Since the MEDLINE database has a MeSH tree structure, you will also have the opportunity to choose subheadings.



9. Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)                                               back to top

The MEDLINE database is indexed by professional reviewers who read each article completely and then assign index terms to describe (as specifically as possible) the contents of the article. The terms come from a standardized list of vocabulary and definitions called MeSH (Medical Subject Headings). The idea behind MeSH is that all articles about the same concept are assigned the same standard subject heading, regardless of the exact words the author uses. For example, one author may use shingles, the other herpes zoster, but both articles will be indexed to herpes zoster. The best way to search MEDLINE is to use the MeSH terms.

10. Author Search                                                                            back to top
When you click the Author icon to search for documents written by a certain person, the Main Search Page Command Line prompt changes. Anything typed at the author prompt will be searched only in the author (au) field of the database.


11. Title Search                                                                                back to top

When you click the Title icon on the Main Search Page, you can search for documents that contain your desired word or phrase in the title field. Note that the Main Search Page Command Line prompt has changed. Anything typed at the title prompt will be searched only in the title (ti) field of the database.


12. Journal Search                                                                            back to top

When you click the Journal icon on the Main Search Page, you can search for documents that appeared in a desired journal. Note that the Main Search Page Command Line prompt has changed. Anything typed at the journal prompt will be searched only in the journal (jn) field of the database.


13. Truncate                                                                                     back to top

14. Command Line Syntax.                                                               back to top

Many Ovid commands may be entered directly on the Command Line. This lets advanced users bypass the Icons displayed at the top of the Main Search Screen to save time. The list below explains the most frequently used commands. You may use uppercase or lowercase letters. Be sure to observe correct placement of the period, comma, and forward-slash characters. Consult the Database Field Guides for more information (click on the "i" icon in front of each database to access the Database Field Guides):
Searches for word or
phrase x in field yy.
Searches for word or
phrase x in fields yy OR zz.
Changes to database x. Consult the Database Field Guides for code names.
..e x
Executes temporary or permanent search strategy x.
..l/n yr=x
Limits set n to publication year x,
where x is a 2-digit year
or hyphenated 2-digit year range (e.g., "94-96").
Limit n to x
Limits set n by Command Line limit x.
Consult the Database Field Guides for available Command Line limits.
Ends your search session and returns to the Login Page.
Displays your complete search strategy during the current session. If desired, use your Web browser's print function once your strategy is displayed.
..root x.yy.
Displays alphabetic position of word x in index for field yy.
..root x.yy,zz.
Displays alphabetic position of word x in combined indexes for fields yy and zz. x
Saves search strategy temporarily (24 hours) with name x. ps(x)
Saves search strategy permanently with name x.

15. Search Fields                                                                             back to top


16. Viewing the Results                                                                     back to top

The "Search History" window shows the last four sets you have created. When you click the Perform Search button on the Main Search Page, results appear immediately, usually in groups of 10 titles at a time. Titles display begins immediately below the search interface, and you can scroll down to see it. The titles display starts with a section heading that contains the results of your search, the number of citations retrieved, and the range of currently displayed items (e.g. 1-10, 11-20, etc.) Additional links appear at the end of each citation, allowing you to display more information (e.g., Abstract, Complete Record, Table of Contents, or Full Text).


17. Search History Window                                                             back to top

Every time you click the Perform Search button, Ovid keeps a record of your search in the search history window. Each search (also known as a set) is numbered consecutively in the "#" column. The quantity of documents retrieved by each search is listed in the "Results" column. Once you have created some searches, a new column appears, called "Display." Click the "Display" link to view the results of any search. Via the command line, you can refer to any search in a new query by typing its number.


18. Expand Search History                                                               back to top

The search history window shows your last four searches by default. If you have performed more than four searches in your current session, click the Expand Search History button to view them all. The searches remain in view until the next time the Main Search Screen redraws.


19. Save/Run Search Buttons                                                           back to top

You can run a previously created Saved Search by clicking the Run Saved Search button. If you have created any searches during your current session, a new button will appear, Save Search History, that lets you save your searches on the server so that you can return to them later.


20. Enter Additional Terms                                                                 back to top 

Command Line. Use this text entry area to type your query. The prompt indicates what type of query Ovid currently expects, e.g. "keyword." You may also use Command Line Syntax.

21. Broaden Your Search:                                                                  back to top

Find everything about the topic (may include some irrelevant items).  In a broad search, the number of key concepts or search statements is reduced, while the number of documents retrieved is increased. To broaden your search:

22. Narrow Your Search:                                                                  back to top

Find a few good references on the topic (may miss some relevant items).  In a narrow search, the number of key concepts is increased and search statements are more complex, while fewer documents are retrieved. Search results are often further restricted by applying limits such as age groups, gender, language, publication types, etc. To narrow your search:

23. Tools                                                                                         back to top

Click the (Tools) icon at the top of the Main Search Screen to activate the special searching capabilities of this database, including Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). Tools include the Tree, Permuted Index, Scope Note, Explode, Focus, Subheadings.  On this page, click the button for the tool you wish to use, enter the desired keyword, and click the Perform Search button. Since they are designed according to the database structure, Tools can be used both to learn more about database design, and as shortcuts to certain structural elements in the database.   (Note: Tools is not available in every database.)


24. Trees                                                                                          back to top

In databases such as MEDLINE, CINAHL, AIDSLINE, etc., index terms are arranged in a hierarchy, with broader concepts such as "wounds and injuries" near the top, and more specific terms like "spinal cord injuries" near the bottom. The hierarchy of terms is known as a Tree. The Tree tool allows you to view any term in the context of the hierarchy. If a term appears in more than one "branch" of the Tree, the display will begin by showing the term in each of the branches. From there, you can browse through as much of the Tree as you wish, looking for terms to add to your search.


25. Permuted Index                                                                          back to top

When using this tool, enter ONE WORD to search. The Permuted Index tool gives you the ability to view index terms in a different way than looking at them in the Tree or Thesaurus. Many index terms are actually multi-word phrases like "wounds and injuries". It is possible that the single word you are interested in might be a part of more than one index term. The Permuted Index (also known as PTX) gives you a way to view all the index terms that have a particular word in them. For example, if you were interested in "spinal cord injuries", which you know to be a Subject Heading, you might enter "spinal" as an entry into the PTX. You would be shown a display of many terms that contain the word "spinal", including "anesthesia spinal," "ganglia, spinal" and "injections, spinal." Although all of these particular terms would also appear together in the Tree or Thesaurus display, other related terms, such as "spinal stenosis", will appear in the PTX display. Such terms would not appear with the food poisoning terms in the Tree or Thesaurus Display.



26. Scope Notes                                                                              back to top

A Scope Note contains information about the use of an index term. This information may be a simple definition of the term, or it may consist of very detailed instructions to the indexer on how to apply the term. Some of the detail may be in a form that is not easily understood by a non-indexer, but often there is very useful information that can be found by scanning a lengthy Scope Note.


27. Explode                                                                                     back to top 


28. Focus                                                                                         back to top

If you wish to only retrieve articles where the MeSH term you selected is the major point being discussed, click in the Focus box to the right of the term. However, this is not recommended for most searches unless the amount retrieved will likely be very large. Click on Continue to proceed to the next search step, choosing a subheading


29. Subheadings                                                                                back to top

Databases indexed with MeSH headings have a list of qualifiers, called Subheadings, which can be used to fine-tune or narrow a search. Subheadings tend to be general concepts such as "etiology" or "toxicology", which, when linked to index terms, give a very specific idea of what an article is about. For example, an article about the medical complications of Spinal Cord Injuries would be assigned the index term "spinal cord injuries" and the subheading "complications." In the document, the index term and subheading would display together, separated by a slash: "spinal cord injuries/co [Complications]". This tool allows you to view and select from all applicable subheadings for the specific term you enter. (Or click the Main Search Page button to cancel the mapping process, to include all subheadings and bypass this step)


  po poisoning
  to toxicity
  ab abnormalities
  bs blood supply
  cy cytology
  em embryology
  ir innervation
  pa pathology
  ul ultrastructure
  bl blood
  cf cerebrospinal fluid
  ip isolation & purification
  ur urine
  aa analogs & derivatives
  ai antagonists & inhibitors
  cs chemical synthesis
  sc secondary
  pa pathology
  ul ultrastructure
  pa pathology
  ra radiography
  ri radionuclide imaging
  us ultrasonography
  ab abnormalities
  eh ethnology
  mo mortality
  ci chemically induced
  cn congenital
  co complications
  em embryology
  ge genetics
  im immunology
  mi microbiology
  ps parasitology
  sc secondary
  tm transmission
  bi biosynthesis
  bl blood
  cf cerebrospinal fluid
  df deficiency
  en enzymology
  pk pharmocokinetics
  ur urine
  ec economics
  lj legislation & jurisprudence
  ma manpower
  sd supply & distribution
  st standards
  td trends
  ut utilization
  ad administration & dosage
  ae adverse effects
  ct contraindications
  du diagnostic use
  pk pharmacokinetics
  po poisoning
  to toxicity
  bi biosynthesis
  bl blood
  cf cerebrospinal fluid
  df deficiency
  en enzymology
  gd growth & development
  ge genetics
  im immunology
  me metabolism
  pk pharmacokinetics
  pp physiopathology
  se secretion
  ur urine
  eh ethnology
  ep epidemiology
  mo mortality
  tr transplantation
  dh diet therapy
  dt drug therapy
  nu nursing
  pc prevention & control
  rh rehabilitation
  rt radiotherapy
  su surgery
  tr transplantation
  ad administration & dosage
  ae adverse effects
  ct contraindications
  po poisoning

30. Combine Terms/Create Sets                                                          back to top

When you click the "Combine" icon on the Main Search Page, you can create a new search set that represents the intersection (AND) or union (OR) of two or more of the previously created sets. You must have at least two sets in your search history to use the Combine command. Combining the key concepts in your search topic with the Boolean connectors OR, AND enables you to formulate your search statement in language that will be interpreted by the system as follows.  OR retrieves documents that discuss either concept, and is used to: connect synonyms or related concepts and increase retrieval. AND retrieves documents that discuss both concepts and is used to: restrict retrieval.



1 and 2 and 3

1 not 4

1 and (2 or 3)

4 not (dogs or cats)

(birds and bees) or (dogs and cats)

(Spinal Fractures or Spinal Cord Injuries) and Intracheal Intubation

Note: items in parenthesis are processed first

31. Limit                                                                                          back to top

You can limit your search statement prior to clicking on the Perform Search button by selecting one of more of the following limits:
Local Holdings -- journals held at the Calder Memorial Library
Full Text -- full text journals from the Core Biomedical Collection I, Core Biomedical Collection II, Ovid Nursing Collection
Human -- articles dealing with human subjects; may also include animal studies
English -- articles in English only
Reviews -- review articles only
Abstracts -- articles with abstracts (can include foreign language articles with English abstracts)
From: ____ To:____ (publication years) You can use the scrolling list boxes to indicate specific years or a range of years.

To limit previously created sets in the Search History window, click the Limit Button and follow the instructions on your screen. After you have entered all key concepts, you can limit your search results by variables such as gender, age, year, publication type, language, etc. Click on the set you want to limit and click on the Limit Set Icon. A list of available options will appear. Click one or more limits and click the "Limit Search" button . Items without scrolling list boxes (male, female) will be applied immediately. If you select an item with a scrolling list box (age groups, publication types), a screen will display with another list of limits from which to choose. For example, publication types will display a large number of options, such as clinical trial, meta analysis, randomized controlled trial, review, etc. If you apply one limit at a time, beginning with the most important one, you can undo them if they become too restrictive.


32. Title and Citation Display                                                            back to top

The Title Display appears immediately below the general limits on the main search page. Scroll down to view the titles or click the corresponding "Display" hypertext link to view retrievals from any of your search sets. Additional fields may be displayed by selecting the hypertext link Complete Reference and where available, Abstract and Full Text links. Select Records by clicking on the box in front of the record from the Title Display or by clicking on the box at the top of the page from the Citation Display.


33. Print, Email and Save from the Citation Manager                         back to top

The Citation Manager is located at the end of every Title Display Page. Make selections from the options provided to print, email, or save. To Print, first select Display from the Action column and then select Print from the browser software. To Email documents, select Email from the Action column. Input a valid Internet email address at the option Email Citations to:.  You may enter more than one email address. To Save documents, select Save from the Action column. This will invoke your browser's save utility.


34. Logoff.                                                                                       back to top

Click the Logoff button when you are done searching. You should logoff to prevent unnecessary use of an Ovid software license.