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Evidence-based dental practice: searching the literature and writing a report

This guide will help you search and assess literature to support dental research questions.

Step Three - Plan a search

Perform a pilot search in each database and reviewing your search terms. 

When using keywords, usually the system searches only for the word or phrase you enter; please consider any alternative keywords that could be used, taking into account differences in terminology, spelling, etc.
In some cases, truncation can be used at the end of a word to retrieve variant endings of that word. eg dent* in PubMed retrieves dental, dentistry, dentist, etc..

  • Always try to use the thesaurus or controlled vocabulary of the database - MeSH for MEDLINE/PubMed.
  • If there is no MeSH, use keywords

Use Boolean operator

Search one concept at a time and then combine them at a later stage with Boolean Operators "AND/OR/NOT". Similar concepts (i.e. synonyms) are combined with OR. Different concepts are combined with AND. Depending on the search results, you can decide to use only MeSH or use both MeSH and keywords. The following is an excellent video from The University of Auckland Library, NZ about Boolean Operators.

Limiting search

For better search results, it is important to use applicable limits. Some popular limits are age, publication date and publication type, such as randomized controlled trial, review, meta-analysis etc. The following is the video provided by NLM to show you how to filter your search results in PubMed.