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Respiratory Care: Introduction to Research: Construct a search strategy

An Introduction to research practice for respiratory care students.

Steps for Acquiring Evidence

  1. Identify a clinical problem
  2. Create a well-defined research question [using PICO]
  3. Translate PICO into a search strategy
  • Brainstorm and gather synonyms
  • Construct the search strategy
  1. Select most likely resources (databases)
  2. Tailor search strategy to database(s)
  3. Save search & export results to reference manager

Visual Queue for AND OR NOT Boolean Operators

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Research quick tips

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:

AND limits results, both concepts stoma AND bowel cancer
OR more results, either concept stoma OR colostomy
NOT excludes concept(s) from results java NOT coffee

Translating PICO into a search strategy

Tailor Search Strategy to the Database

Tailor Search Strategy to the Database

  • Understand different vendor interfaces (EBSCO publishes CINAHL and PsycINFO, Elsevier publishes Scopus, Medline is part of PubMed)
  • Differentiate between keywords and subject headings (PubMed uses Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), Scopus only uses keywords, CINAHL uses subject headings)
  • 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

Link to NCBI: PubMed text tutorial: What is MeSH? 

More information about MeSH