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Pharmacy Literature Search Skills

Example Ovid Medline search

Below is an example search strategy in Ovid Medline for this question:


"What kinds of interventions* have been tried to limit antibiotic overuse in the ICU?"


Search Strategy Line


1. Antimicrobial Stewardship/ or exp Anti-Bacterial Agents/

The most appropriate MeSH term, OR the MeSH term for antibiotics, exploded to include all specific drug terms. The / indicates a MeSH term.

2. (antibiotic* or antimicrobial* or antibacterial* or anti-microbial* or anti-bacterial*).mp

Keywords for antibiotics. The * finds singular and plural forms - anything that starts with those letters. The .mp stands for "many places" - looking for an exact match for those characters in the title, abstract, MeSH, and a few other places (not the full text of an article). Because it’s looking for an exact match, hyphenated versions of words need to be searched too.


You may search more than one keyword on a line like this, or you can separate them into separate lines.

3. 1 or 2 [antibiotics]

Combining synonyms, set 1 and set 2. You may find it helpful to add comments in square brackets.

4. Physician's Practice Patterns/


5.  exp Drug Prescriptions/


6. exp Drug Utilization/


7. Inappropriate Prescribing/


8.  stewardship or misuse* or overuse* or


9. or/4-8 [overuse]

Some of these MeSH terms and keywords were found by looking at relevant articles and seeing which MeSH were used to index them, or noting new keywords that might be relevant.

10. exp Intensive Care Units/

Exploded to include NICU and other narrower terms.

11. intensive care or ICU*.mp

Note that when you enter words next to each other, they are searched as a phrase in Ovid (in this case, intensive care)

12. 10 or 11 [ICU]


13. 3 and 9 and 12

Search results with all 3 concepts. If this is too many results, try using some limits. Limiting to systematic reviews or other reviews is often a good start.


*Note: “intervention” is often not a useful term to include in your search. There is no MeSH term for it, and it may not come up as a keyword in relevant articles.