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Dental Hygiene: Evidence Based Practice: Searching the Evidence

EBP, Statistics tab, Journal Links

Major Steps in a Search

  1. Create a well-defined question [PICO]
  2. Brainstorm and gather synonyms
  3. Construct the search strategy
  4. Select database(s)
  5. Tailor search strategy to database(s)
  6. Save search & export results to reference manager [see Research Tools]

Gather Synonyms

Think broadly and abstractly!

  • Terms with the same meaning
    • Hypertension/High blood pressure
  • Terms with alternate spellings
    • Leukemia/Leukaemia
  • Complex concepts described inconsistently
    • Long-term, patient-reported satisfaction…/Patients’ experiences with…
  • Umbrella terms and specific names
    • Sexually transmitted disease/genital warts, syphilis
  • Keywords and database-specific subject terms
    • Cancer, tumor/Neoplasm (MeSH)

Construct Search Strategies

Construct search by combining concepts with Boolean operators. Use keywords and subject terms in combination.

Boolean Logic Operators


  Limits results, both    concepts

   Stoma AND Bowel        cancer


  More results, either  concept

  Stoma OR Colostomy


  Cuts out specific results

   JAVA NOT coffee

Tailor Search Strategy to the Database

Tailor Search Strategy to the Database

  • Understand different vendor interfaces (Ebsco publishes CINAHL and PsycINFO, Elsevier publishes Scopus)
  • Differentiate between keywords and subject headings (PubMed uses MeSH, Scopus only uses keywords)
  • Different databases, different subject headings
  • Know if the content is peer-reviewed (Medline = all peer-reviewed, CINAHL and PubMed include non-peer-reviewed material)

Understand MeSH

  Direct Link to NCBI video tutorial on searching with MeSH

  Direct Link to National Institutes of Health interactive tutorial on MeSH

Visual Queue for AND OR NOT Boolean Operators

Image from;4.25.18

Grey Lit Searching

  •   Open access to bibliographical references of grey literature produced in Europe
  • Includes technical or research reports, doctoral dissertations, some conference papers, some official publications, and other types of grey literature.
  •  bimonthly publication of The New York Academy of Medicine
  • alerts on new grey literature
  • publications in health services research and selected urban health topics
  • cataloged and indexed using MeSH