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Tips for Effective Literature Searching

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Resident’s Handbook of Medical Quality and Safety


Literature searching presents challenges for the searcher. It can be difficult to know how to start, which search terms to use, which databases to select, and whether to be comprehensive or very selective. In this chapter, we will explore ways to optimize results for your research purposes. We compare controlled vocabulary in PubMed and Embase and review how to combine controlled vocabulary terms with keywords. We will discuss Boolean operators and how to increase or decrease recall and precision, how to build and combine concepts formulated from a PICO question (PICO = Population or Problem, Intervention, Comparison/Control, Outcomes), and how to exclude unwanted results. We will also see how field tags/field descriptors can change the search and how they aid in finding citations and publications from specific journals or specific authors. We note how to search the reference list or index terms of very relevant articles. We will review how using Advanced Search functions and filters within each database will allow the searcher to limit by date, by language, by publication type, and more. Finally, we will discuss how to save and export relevant results to a bibliographic manager for future use and collaboration with others.

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Correspondence to Carrie Price .

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Price, C. (2016). Tips for Effective Literature Searching. In: Atanelov, L. (eds) Resident’s Handbook of Medical Quality and Safety. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-24188-3

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