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Pharmacy Literature Search Skills

PICO and Database Searching

Note that many questions you may be researching will not fit neatly into a PICO format. Even if they do fit, it's generally not a good idea to include all elements of your PICO in your database search. It's often best to start with the P and I, or the I and O elements.

Optionally, you may want to add some words to your search that describe study design. There are a number of search filters or hedges - pre-constructed searches you can copy and paste - available that help you to search by study design. One source is Strings Attached, from the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH):

Database Commands

Database

Truncation

Wildcard:

0 or 1 character

Wildcard:

Exactly 1 character

Phrase

Proximity

OVID databases

 

*  or  $  or  :

Examples:
 

pharm$ will find:

pharmacy, pharmacist, pharmaceutical….

Child* will find:

children, childbirth, child-centred, childhood…

?

Examples:

flavo?r

P?ediatric

#

Example:
 

wom#n

Quotation marks only needed if there's an "and," "or" or "use" in your phrase:

Examples:

“Sensitivity and Specificity”

“Substance use disorder”

 adjn

(adj=adjacent and "n" is the number of words)

 

Example:

environment* adj3 health will find environment, environmental etc. within 3 words of health.

PubMed

*

Note: truncation stops automatic mapping to MeSH and shows first 600 possible word endings

   

“your phrase”

Note: phrase searching stops automatic mapping to MeSH, and does not always find results

Proximity searching not available in PubMed 

EBSCO databases

 

*

 

#

Examples:

flavo#r

P#ediatric

?

Example:

wom?n

“your phrase”

Nn or Wn

(N= Near, W= Within and "n" is the number of words)

Example:
seat* n5 wheelchair will find seat or seating etc. within 5 words of wheelchair.

Web of Science

 

 

*

Web of Science allows left-sided truncation as well as right-sided.

Example: *statin will find:

atorvastatin, simvastatin, pravastatin…

$ for exactly 0-1 characters

* for 0-multiple characters

 

?

“your phrase”

NEAR/x

You can specify x number of words; or if you just type NEAR, the default range is within 15 words.