Searching Systematically Lecture or Workshop Presentation

Replicating Searches in Different Health Science Database Platforms

Library for Educators
6 min readJan 17, 2023

This session will show participants how to replicate a search topic in four database platforms and raise awareness of some of the search tools that may be useful in replicating searches.

Supporting materials

Slides/materials: PowerPoint slides (unchanged 2022)

Supporting online resources:

Start to Finish: Searching Systematically (new link April 2021)

Introduction to the Ovid platform using PsycInfo

Introduction to the EBSCO platform using CINAHL

Introduction to the Web of Science platform

Introduction to the Proquest platform using ASSIA

How to save your search in EBSCO

How to save your search in OVID

How to save your search in Web of Science

How to save your search in Proquest

Search Operators

Making use of MeSH and Suggested Subject Terms

Locating missing articles in OVID medical databases

The 4 narrated PowerPoints for Ovid, EBSCO, Web of Science and Proquest created in 2021 and hosted on E-Learning Blackboard pages


  • Group: up to 25 with 1 trainer and assistant
  • Length: 1 or 1.5 hours
  • Method of delivery: Face to Face or Zoom
  • Discipline: health science disciplines
  • Level: Year 3 UG and PG students

Learning outcomes

After engaging with this support, you will be able to:

  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different search tools
  • Identify an appropriate tool to use for finding information for your specific purpose

Session content

Exploring the functionalities of the Ovid, EBSCO, Proquest and Clarivate Analytics Database Platforms

· The workshop is centred on one search example used by the trainer who will replicate the search as closely as possible on up to four database platforms. This ensures that everyone can see specific sets of results which are used to illustrate specific points.

· The aim of the workshop is to demonstrate the functionality of each database platform rather than developing specific literature searching skills.

· PowerPoint Slides 1–6 are used before the demonstrations/hands-on sections. They clarify the coverage of the session and underline essential elements of successful database navigation. PowerPoint Sides 7 and 8 are used at the end of the session.

Introduction Slides 1–5. (talk through the slides)

· Slide 1 — Objectives — This session will…

Read out the objectives and tell the class you will clarify what MeSH means later. Check with the class that they agree with these objectives and ask if anyone had any queries about these (what do they want to know?)

· Slide 2 — Maximising Platform Usage

Clarify what is meant by a platform i.e. it hosts the database/s.

· Slide 3 — Before you start [using the databases]

Explain to the class that they need a rough idea of their research destination. The slide shows words that are related to this topic that could be use or considered or even discounted.

· Slide 4 — Boolean AND OR NOT

Explain that lists of words can be strung together with Boolean. The Venn diagram shows an early formation of the search strategy.

· Slide 5 — Things to remember [about databases]

Remind the class of the scope of the databases.

· Slide 6 — Demonstration/Hands-on

The research topic used in this workshop by the trainer is:

“Adolescent attitude towards contraception”

Starting the live demonstrations.

Before you begin, tell the attendees that the Ovid and EBSCO platforms have more tools so take a little longer to demonstrate than the other two.

Tip: At the beginning of the session the trainer may ask the group what they want to learn about– they may not need to know how to use all four database platforms.

The first search will be carried out in PsycInfo in the Advanced Search mode.

The Selling point of many of the Ovid databases is the MeSH trees function. MeSH trees are available on most Ovid health sciences databases.

  1. The trainer shows that the MeSH box is already ticked. The trainer types the term “attitude” in the search box.
  2. The trainer explains that the list of terms are medical subject headings related to the term “attitude” could be different in other databases. Select “Adolescent Attitudes” and run the search.
  3. For the second search type “contraception” and press search. The MeSH box should still be ticked. “Birth control” should appear above contraception. Explain that “birth control” is the preferred term in this database but “contraception” can still be searched as a keyword. Select both birth control and contraception from list of words (leaving the boolean set as OR) and click CONTINUE.
  4. Draw the two searches together by combining 1 AND 2.
  5. Refine this search by limiting it to last 5 years.

You should have a table that looks similar to this:

Screenshot of the Ovid interface

The second search will be carried out in CINAHL in the Advanced Search mode.

This database also has a similar function to MeSH trees, which is the Suggest Subject Terms tool.

  1. The first search for the term “attitude” will be carried out as a Suggest Subject Terms search. Tick the Suggest Subject Terms box, type “Attitude” and run the search. Indicate that the list of subject headings related to the term “attitude” is different from those shown in PsycInfo
  2. For the second search, clear the search box and type “contraception” and ensure the Suggest Subject Terms box is ticked. Press search. Explain that “contraception” is the preferred term in this database but “birth control” can still be searched as a keyword later. Select contraception from list of words and click Search Database.
  3. “Contraception” should still be in the search box. Type “birth control” in the second search box, changing the Boolean to OR and press search.
  4. Draw the searches together by combining 1 AND 3.
  5. Ask the class if the search is the same as last the last one yet. Using the refinements to the left of the search screen, choose the limit age group “Adolescent 13–18 years” and refine.
  6. Limit the previous search to last 5 years

You should have a table that looks similar to this:

Screenshot of EBSCO interface

Explain that the next two platforms are much quicker to demonstrate

because they do not have the same range of search tools as the first

The third search will be carried out in Web of Science in the Advanced Search mode.

The Selling point of this database is that it is not subject specific and can show point you to relevant results in subject areas you may not have considered searching. This database will also indicate how many articles have been written on a topic in a given year.

This database does not include any MeSH trees or auto-complete searching tools.

  1. Add an extra field. Type” adolescent attitude” in the first box and “contraception OR birth control” in the second box making sure both boxes are set as Topic (press search).
  2. Show the students the Publication Years option on the left side of the screen. Point out that Web of Science shows years of most frequent publication in that subject area and this is useful to determine how much research has been done in that subject area. Limit search to last 5 years.

You should have a table that looks similar to this:

Screenshot of Web of Science interface

The fourth search will be carried out in ASSIA in the Advanced Search mode.

This database includes an auto-complete searching tool but does not include any MeSH trees tools.

  1. Select ADVANCED Search screen as this looks closer to the Web of Science one in layout. Type “adolescent attitude” on first line and “contraception OR birth control” in second line of boxes. Type date range in boxes (last 5 years). (It is possible to just type the years, there is no need for months and days).

You should have a search history table that looks similar to this:

Screenshot of ProQuest interface

· Slide 7 — A recap of the platform functionalities — this slide gives a summary of functionalities have been covered in the session.

· Direct students to the database Ask a University Librarian links in Ovid and EBSCO.

· Ask A Question links on the subject guides

Please note — The timings for all four database platforms are based on a two-hour session — some platforms may be dropped if not needed.

Ovid and EBSCO can be covered in 1 hour 15 minutes.

Written 5 January 2022, checked 26 August 2022



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