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Too few results, what to do now?
If you get too few results, you can:
- Use less specific terms; use a broader MeSH term
- Broaden your search by adding alternatives for your search terms(for instance cancer OR neoplasm);
- Broaden your search by including word variations (for instance: neoplasm OR neoplastic) or by shortening your search terms to the word stem (truncation) if the search engine supports this (for instance: neoplas*);
- Broaden your search by leaving out an aspect
- Check the spelling of your search terms again! Think for instance of English/American spelling variations (e.g. anaemia/anemia)
- Use other search engines and databases (see the box finding more biomedical references below)
- Get inspired by other search blocks, for example on the BMI website
Finding more biomedical references
In any case it is advisable to search Embase, the European counterpart of PubMed.
Depending on the subject both sources each contain a third part of unique references and a third part they have in common.
Embase is very suitable for finding pharmacological references.
Other important search engines are:
- Cochrane Library (for finding evidence based material, one of its parts (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews) is included in PubMed
- CINAHL (Cumulated Index for Nursing and Allied Health; for subjects in the field of nursing and applied health sciences)
- PsycINFO (for subjects in the field of psychology and psychiatry)
List of all search engines of the University Library
Too many results, what to do now?
If you get too many results you can:
- Use more specific search terms
- Add an extra aspect to your search question
- Use the available filters in PubMed. This can only be done safely by limiting on language and publication date
PubMed offers many options for targeted searches.
The best known of these is the entrance: Clinical Queries. Clinical Queries filters are search strategies that help to limit the search results to specific types of clinical studies. For example, you can search for articles about therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, etc.
In the PubMed start screen you will find Clinical Queries under the heading 'Find'.
In the video below you can see how the Clinical Queries work.
When doing a systematic search, it is wise to save your search. You need to create an account in PubMed for this. Once you have it, you can ask PubMed to send you updates about your search. See the video below how this works.
Export your search results to a reference manager
To be able to reference, deduplicate or screen your articles, it is useful to export your results.
You do this by clicking on 'Send to' after performing your search. Here you will see - among other things - the option to export your files to a 'citation manager' (reference management program).