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Medline Guided Exercise: Introduction


Purpose of the guide:

The objective of this guide is to teach participants how to build a structured and logical search strategy that will find relevant information to answer a research question. The learning outcomes are that you will know about and able to do the following:

  • Define your research topic/question
  • Identify relevant search terms
  • Design an effective and efficient search strategy
  • Use the results

As a "guide on the side", the Guided Medline Exercise will take you through the process of developing a search strategy, step-by-step.


Each step includes written instructions, a video clip, and additional tips and information


A walk through following the Step-by-Step instructions will take approximately 30-45 minutes.

Let's get started!

Step by Step: Using Medline (Ovid)

Why do a structured search?

Using a framework, such as PICO, a structured search involves breaking down the research question into searchable parts. These individual concepts are separately searched for using subject headings and keywords. The resulting sets of references are then combined to increase sensitivity (using OR) and then be more specific (using AND). Filters and Limits can be used to further define the relevance for the research question.

This methodical process:

  • Saves time (in the long run)
  • Effectively uses a database’s tools and techniques
  • Allows for greater sensitivity balanced with specificity
  • Provides a transparent and replicable description that is required for knowledge syntheses such as Systematic or Scoping Reviews
  • Can be adapted to other databases

Here is an example of a structured search in Medline Ovid: Search Strategy Explained.

How to use this guide

Build a structured search in Medline (Ovid) following these processes:

  1. Identify your research question and analyze the topic using a framework such as PICO
  2. Find relevant search terms - Subject Headings
  3. Find relevant search terms - Keywords
  4. Combine searches
  5. Adding Limits or Filters
  6. Saving searches and results

Each page includes

  1. Step by Step instructions alongside a video presentation of the process. Note that there is no sound.
  2. A Build Your Own activity to create the search on your own topic

Tip: Have Medline (Ovid) open in another window or screen. As you view each page, follow the steps to create the provided search example. Alternatively, have in mind your own research topic and follow the Build Your Own instructions to create your specific search.

Why use Medline on the OVID platform?

MEDLINE, from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is the premier bibliographic database containing references to journal articles in the life sciences. It forms a major part of, and is searchable via ,PubMed.

Ovid’s interface is chosen because

  1. It has similar content to Pubmed, including the references in Pubmed Central
  2. Its search engine encourages a structured approach
  3. Its mapping to subject headings tool is accurate
  4. It has additional tools, such as proximity operators, that help with precision and relevancy

Using Medline (OVID)

  1. Go to
  2. Choose the Indexes and Databases tab
  3. Type Medline in the search field and click Search
  4. Choose the Medline (OVID) database from the search results
    • You may be prompted for your CWL
    • You will be taken to the Ovid search page
Video Demo: Accessing Medline (OVID)