Health Information Research Unit

Evidence-Based Health Informatics

Search Strategies for MEDLINE in Ovid Syntax and the PubMed translation


Our Clinical Hedges database contains data for the year 2000 for each article in each of the issues of 170 clinical journals (journal list). 161 of these journals were indexed in MEDLINE (journal list). The MEDLINE search strategies are located on this page. To view the search strategy for EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO, please click on the appropriate link.To find out more about the Hedges Project, click here.

MEDLINE

For each purpose category (therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, reviews, clinical prediction guides, qualitative, causation (etiology), costs, economics), the following data are shown: the single term with the highest sensitivity while keeping specificity at 50%; the single term with the highest specificity while keeping the sensitivity 50%; the single term with the least (minimal) absolute difference between sensitivity and specificity; and then the same data for multiple terms (the single term strategy may be shown again if it performs at least as well as multiple terms). In the second column of the table the search strategies are shown in Ovid syntax followed by the PubMed translation. In the third column of the table: sens = sensitivity; spec = specificity; prec = precision; acc = accuracy. References for the methods and individual categories appear at the end of the document.


Top (diagnosis, prognosis, reviews, clinical prediction guides, qualitative, causation (etiology), costs, economics)

Therapy
Strategy type

Ovid Strategy

Sens / spec / prec / acc(%)
PubMed Translation
1 term
high sensitivity
clinical trial.mp,pt.
95 / 94 / 35/ 94
(clinical[Title/Abstract] AND
trial[Title/Abstract]) OR
clinical trials[MeSH Terms] OR
clinical trial[Publication Type]
1 term
high specificity
randomized controlled trial.pt.
93 / 98 / 56 / 97
randomized controlled trial[Publication Type]
1 term
min difference
randomized controlled trial.pt.
93 / 98 / 56 / 97
randomized controlled trial[Publication Type]
2 or more terms
high sensitivity
clinical trial.mp. OR
clinical trial.pt. OR
random:.mp. OR tu.xs.
99 / 70 / 10 / 71
(clinical[Title/Abstract] AND
trial[Title/Abstract]) OR
clinical trials[MeSH Terms] OR
clinical trial[Publication Type] OR random*[Title/Abstract] OR
random allocation[MeSH Terms] OR
therapeutic use[MeSH Subheading]
2 or more terms
high specificity
randomized controlled trial.pt. OR
randomized controlled trial.mp.
93 / 97 / 54 / 97
randomized controlled trial[Publication Type] OR (randomized[Title/Abstract] AND controlled[Title/Abstract] AND trial[Title/Abstract])
2 or more terms
min difference
randomized controlled trial.pt. OR
randomized.mp. OR
placebo.mp.
96 / 95 / 39 / 95
randomized controlled trial[Publication Type] OR
randomized[Title/Abstract] OR
placebo[Title/Abstract]

Top (therapy, prognosis, reviews, clinical prediction guides, qualitative, causation (etiology), costs, economics)

Diagnosis
Strategy type

Ovid Strategy

Sens / spec / prec / acc(%)
PubMed Translation
1 term
high sensitivity
di.xs.
92 / 68 / 1 / 68
diagnosis[Subheading]
1 term
high specificity
specificity.tw.
65 / 98 / 11 / 98
specificity[Title/Abstract]
1 term
min difference
exp "diagnostic techniques and procedures"
67 / 75 / 1 / 75
"diagnostic techniques and procedures"[MeSH Term]
2 or more terms
high sensitivity
sensitiv:.mp. OR diagnos:.mp. OR di.fs.
99 / 74 / 1 / 74
sensitiv*[Title/Abstract] OR
sensitivity and specificity[MeSH Terms] OR
diagnos*[Title/Abstract] OR diagnosis[MeSH:noexp] OR
diagnostic * [MeSH:noexp] OR
diagnosis,differential[MeSH:noexp] OR
diagnosis[Subheading:noexp]
2 or more terms
high specificity (single term is best performer)
specificity.tw.
65 / 98 / 11 / 98
specificity[Title/Abstract]
2 or more terms
min difference
sensitiv:.mp. OR
predictive value:.mp. OR
accurac:.tw.
93 / 92 / 3 / 92
sensitiv*[Title/Abstract] OR
sensitivity and specificity[MeSH Terms] OR
(predictive[Title/Abstract] AND value*[Title/Abstract]) OR
predictive value of tests[MeSH Term] OR
accuracy*[Title/Abstract]

Top (therapy, diagnosis, reviews, clinical prediction guides, qualitative, causation (etiology), costs, economics)

Prognosis
Strategy type

Ovid Strategy

Sens / spec / prec / acc(%)
PubMed Translation
1 term
high sensitivity
exp epidemiologic studies
65 / 79 / 1 / 79
epidemiologic studies[MeSH term]
1 term
high specificity
exp epidemiologic studies
65 / 79 / 1 / 79
epidemiologic studies[MeSH term]
1 term
min difference
exp epidemiologic studies
65 / 79 / 1 / 79
epidemiologic studies[MeSH term]
2 or more terms
high sensitivity
incidence.sh. OR exp mortality OR
follow-up studies.sh. OR
prognos:.tw. OR
predict:.tw. OR
course:.tw.
90 / 80 / 2 / 80
incidence[MeSH:noexp] OR
mortality[MeSH Terms] OR
follow up studies[MeSH:noexp] OR
prognos*[Text Word] OR
predict*[Text Word] OR
course*[Text Word]
2 or more terms
high specificity
prognos:.tw. OR
first episode.tw. OR
cohort.tw.
52 / 94 / 3 / 94
prognos*[Title/Abstract] OR
(first[Title/Abstract] AND
episode[Title/Abstract]) OR
cohort[Title/Abstract]
2 or more terms
min difference
prognosis.sh. OR
diagnosed.tw. OR
cohort:.mp. OR
predictor:.tw. OR
death.tw. OR
exp models, statistical
83 / 84 / 2 / 84
prognosis[MeSH:noexp] OR
diagnosed[Title/Abstract] OR
cohort*[Title/Abstract] OR
cohort effect[MeSH Term] OR
cohort studies[MeSH:noexp] OR
predictor*[Title/Abstract] OR
death[Title/Abstract] OR
"models, statistical"[MeSH Term]

Top (therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, clinical prediction guides, qualitative, causation (etiology), costs, economics)

Reviews
Strategy type

Ovid Strategy

Sens / spec / prec / acc(%)
PubMed Translation
1 term
high sensitivity
search:.tw.
79 / 99 / 52 / 99
search*[Title/Abstract]
1 term
high specificity
MEDLINE.tw.
55 / 99.5 / 62.9 / 99
MEDLINE[Title/Abstract]
1 term
min difference
control:.tw.
72 / 84 / 7 / 84
control*[Title/Abstract]
2 or more terms
high sensitivity
search:.tw.OR
meta analysis.mp,pt.OR
review.pt.OR
di.xs. OR
associated.tw.
99.9 / 52 / 3 / 53
search*[Title/Abstract] OR
meta analysis[Publication Type] OR
meta analysis[Title/Abstract] OR
meta analysis[MeSH Terms] OR
review[Publication Type] OR
diagnosis[MeSH Subheading] OR
associated[Title/Abstract]
2 or more terms
high specificity
MEDLINE.tw.OR
systematic review.tw.OR
meta analysis.pt.
71 / 99.2 / 57 / 99
MEDLINE[Title/Abstract] OR
(systematic[Title/Abstract] AND
review[Title/Abstract]) OR
meta analysis[Publication Type]
2 or more terms
min difference
meta analysis.mp,pt.OR
review.pt.OR
search:.tw.
98 / 91 / 14 / 91
meta analysis[Publication Type] OR
meta analysis[Title/Abstract] OR
meta analysis[MeSH Terms] OR
review[Publication Type] OR
search*[Title/Abstract]

Top (therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, reviews, qualitative, causation (etiology), costs, economics)

Clinical Prediction Guides
Strategy type

Ovid Strategy

Sens / spec / prec / acc(%)
PubMed Translation
1 term
high sensitivity
predict:.mp.
78 / 91 / 2 / 91
predict*[Title/Abstract] OR
predictive value of tests[MeSH Term]
1 term
high specificity
validat:.tw.
57 / 99 / 8 / 99
validat*[Title/Abstract]
1 term
min difference
predict:.mp.
78 / 91 / 2 /91
predict*[Title/Abstract] OR
predictive value of tests[MeSH Term]
2 or more terms
high sensitivity
predict:.mp. OR
scor:.tw. OR
observ:mp.
96 / 79 / 1 / 79
predict*[Title/Abstract] OR
predictive value of tests[MeSH Term] OR
scor*[Title/Abstract] OR
observ*[Title/Abstract] OR
observer variation[MeSH Term]
2 or more terms
high specificity
validation.tw. OR
validate.tw.
54 / 99 / 12 / 99
validation[Title/Abstract] OR
validate[Title/Abstract]
2 or more terms
min difference
predict:tw. OR
validat:.mp. OR
develop.tw.
90 / 90 / 2 / 90
predict*[Title/Abstract] OR
validat*[Text Word] OR
develop[Title/Abstract]

Top (therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, reviews, clinical prediction guides, causation (etiology), costs, economics)

Qualitative
Strategy type

Ovid Strategy

Sens / spec / prec / acc(%)
PubMed Translation
1 term
high sensitivity
interview:.mp.
71 / 97 / 13 / 97
interview*[Title/Abstract] OR
interviews[MeSH:noexp]
1 term
high specificity
interviews.tw.
56 / 99 / 26 / 99
interviews[Title/Abstract]
1 term
min difference
interview:.mp.
71 / 97 / 13 / 97
interview*[Title/Abstract] OR
interviews[MeSH:noexp]
2 or more terms
high sensitivity
interview:.tw. OR
px.fs. OR
exp health services administration
95 / 70 / 2 / 70
interview*[Title/Abstract] OR
psychology[Subheading:noexp] OR
health services administration[MeSH Term]
2 or more terms
high specificity
qualitative.tw. OR
themes.tw.
61 / 99 / 37 / 99
qualitative[Title/Abstract] OR
themes[Title/Abstract]
2 or more terms
min difference
interview:.mp. OR
experience:.mp. OR
qualitative.tw.
92 / 92 / 7 / 92
interview*[Title/Abstract] OR
interviews[MeSH:noexp] OR
experience*[Text Word] OR
qualitative[Title/Abstract]

Top (therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, reviews, clinical prediction guides, qualitative, costs, economics)

Causation (Etiology)
Strategy type

Ovid Strategy

Sens / spec / prec / acc(%)
PubMed Translation
1 term
high sensitivity
risk:mp.
78 / 84 / 3 / 83
risk*[Title/Abstract] OR
risk*[MeSH:noexp] OR
risk *[MeSH:noexp]
1 term
high specificity
risk factor:.mp.
51 / 91 / 3 / 91
risk factor*[Title/Abstract] OR
risk factors[MeSH Term]
1 term
min difference
risk:mp.
78 / 84 / 3 / 83
risk*[Title/Abstract] OR
risk*[MeSH:noexp] OR
risk *[MeSH:noexp]
2 or more terms
high sensitivity
risk:.mp. OR
exp cohort studies OR
between group:.tw.
93 / 63 / 2 / 63
risk*[Title/Abstract] OR
risk*[MeSH:noexp] OR
risk *[MeSH:noexp] OR
cohort studies[MeSH Terms] OR
group*[Text Word]
2 or more terms
high specificity
relative risk:.tw. OR
risks.tw. OR
cohort stud:.mp.
51 / 95 / 6 / 95
(relative[Title/Abstract] AND risk*[Title/Abstract]) OR
(relative risk[Text Word]) OR
risks[Text Word] OR
cohort studies[MeSH:noexp] OR
(cohort[Title/Abstract] AND
stud*[Title/Abstract])
2 or more terms
min difference
risk.mp. OR
mortality.mp. OR
cohort.tw.
83 / 83 / 3 / 83
risk[Title/Abstract] OR
risk[MeSH:noexp] OR
mortality[Title/Abstract] OR
mortality[MeSH:noexp] OR
cohort[Title/Abstract]

Top (therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, reviews, clinical prediction guides, qualitative, causation (etiology), economics)

Costs
Strategy type

Ovid Strategy

Sens / spec / prec / acc(%)
PubMed Translation
1 term
high sensitivity
cost:.mp.
99 / 97 / 16 / 97
cost*[Title/Abstract] OR
"costs and cost analysis"[MeSH:noexp]
1 term
high specificity
cost effective:.tw.
50 / 99 / 32 / 99
cost effective*[Title/Abstract]
1 term
min difference
ec.fs.
97 / 97 / 15 / 97
economics[Subheading:noexp]
2 or more terms
high sensitivity
ec.fs. OR
cost.tw. OR
health care costs.sh.
100 / 96 / 13 / 96
economics[Subheading:noexp] OR
cost[Title/Abstract] OR
health care costs[MeSH:noexp]
2 or more terms
high specificity
cost effectiveness.tw. OR
health care costs.sh.
57 / 99.5 / 37 / 99
cost effectiveness[Title/Abstract] OR
health care costs[MeSH:noexp]
2 or more terms
min difference
exp "costs and cost analysis" OR
costs.tw. OR
cost effective:.tw.
98 / 98 / 18 / 98
"costs and cost analysis"[MeSH Term] OR
costs[Title/Abstract] OR
cost effective*[Title/Abstract]

Top (therapy, diagnosis, prognosis, reviews, clinical prediction guides, qualitative, causation (etiology), costs)

Economics
Strategy type

Ovid Strategy

Sens / spec / prec / acc(%)
PubMed Translation
1 term
high sensitivity
cost:.tw.
97 / 97 / 16 / 97
cost*[Title/Abstract]
1 term
high specificity
cost effective:.tw.
66 / 99 / 6 / 99
cost effective*[Title/Abstract]
1 term
min difference
cost:.tw.
97 / 97 / 3 / 97
cost*[Title/Abstract]
2 or more terms
high sensitivity
randomized controlled trial.pt. OR
cost effectiveness.tw. OR
cost effective.tw.
100 / 94 / 1 / 94
randomized controlled trial[Publication Type] OR
cost effectiveness[Title/Abstract] OR
cost effective[Title/Abstract]
2 or more terms
high specificity
cost effective.tw. OR
sensitivity analys:.tw.
51 / 99.4 / 6 / 99
cost effective[Title/Abstract] OR
sensitivity analys*[Title/Abstract]
2 or more terms
min difference
cost:.mp. OR
cost benefit analys:.mp. OR
health care costs.mp.
97 / 96 / 2 / 96
cost*[Title/Abstract] OR
"costs and cost analysis"[MeSH:noexp] OR
cost benefit analys*[Title/Abstract] OR
cost-benefit analysis[MeSH Term] OR
health care costs[MeSH:noexp]

Top

References

Wilczynski NL, McKibbon KA, Haynes RB. Enhancing retrieval of best evidence for health care from bibliographic databases: calibration of the hand search of the literature. Medinfo. 2001;10(Pt 1):390-3.

Wong SS, Wilczynski NL, Haynes RB, Ramkissoonsingh R. Developing optimal search strategies for detecting sound clinical prediction studies in MEDLINE. Proc AMIA Symp. 2003;:728-32.

Wilczynski NL, Haynes RB. Developing optimal search strategies for detecting clinically sound causation studies in MEDLINE. Proc AMIA Symp. 2003;:719-23.

Haynes RB, Wilczynski NL. Optimal search strategies for retrieving scientifically strong studies of diagnosis from MEDLINE: analytical survey. BMJ. 2004;328:1040-2.

Wilczynski NL, Haynes RB; The Hedges Team. Developing optimal search strategies for detecting clinically sound prognostic studies in MEDLINE. BMC Medicine. 2004;2:23 (5 pages).

Wong SS, Wilczynski NL, Haynes RB. Developing Optimal Search Strategies for Detecting Clinically Relevant Qualitative Studies in MEDLINE. Medinfo. 2004;2004:311-6.

Wilczynski NL, Haynes RB, Lavis JN, Ramkissoonsingh R, Arnold-Oatley A, for the HSR Hedges Team. Optimal search strategies for detecting health services research studies in MEDLINE. CMAJ, 2004 Nov 9;171(10)1179-85. There is free full text for this article at: http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/reprint/171/10/1179.

Montori VM, Wilczynski NL, Morgan D, Haynes RB for the Hedges Team. Optimal search strategies for retrieving systematic reviews from MEDLINE: an analytical survey. BMJ. 2005 Jan 8;330(7482):68. Epub 2004 Dec 24. There is free full text for this article at: http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/reprint/330/7482/68.

Haynes RB, McKibbon KA, Wilczynski NL, WalterSD, Werre SR; Hedges Team. Optimal search strategies for retrieving scientifically strong studies of treatment from Medline: analytical survey. BMJ. 2005 May 21;330(7501):1179. Epub 2005 May 13.