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Systematic Reviews

Translate a PubMed Search into Other Databases

A systematic review should not be written using results from just one database. This page will walk you through translating a PubMed search into various other databases.   

First finalize your search strategy in PubMed.  Consult a librarian or use our PubMed guide PubMed guide if you need assistance with this.
-    Use MeSH terms
-    Using [tiab] is usually a good idea (this limits your results to those where your keywords show up in the article's title or abstract)
-    Use quotes if you need to keep a phrase together
-    Using an asterisk allows for truncation (educat* will return articles that refer to educate, educated, education, etc.)

This page will use an ongoing example of a search to find articles about distal clavical excisions. The PubMed search string looks like this:

((distal[tiab] OR lateral[tiab]) 
AND ("Clavicle"[Mesh] OR clavic*[tiab]) 
AND (excision[tiab] OR resection[tiab] OR "Mumford procedure"[tiab]))
NOT (children OR pediatrics)

Once you have a completed, finalized search strategy in PubMed, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you paste that search string into a Word document, along with a note about how many results were returned and the date you ran it.  This will allow you to re-run the search, and is necessary information for when you write your paper. 

After the PubMed search is finalized:   Create a generic search string  Leave the quotes in. Eliminate all MeSH terms and the tag [tiab] 

This page will use an ongoing example of a search created to find articles about distal clavical excisions. The generic search string looks like this:

((distal OR lateral) 
AND (clavic*) 
AND (excision OR resection OR "Mumford procedure"))
NOT (children OR pediatrics)

To translate to Scopus:  Here is a link to our Scopus User Guide for additional information.

  • Go into “Advanced Search”  to use Title-Abstract screening
  • There is no controlled vocabulary (eg MeSH terms) in Scopus.
  • To keep a phrase together, use { } instead of “ “   Example:

“Emergency services” OR “Emergency department”     needs to become

{Emergency services} OR {Emergency department}

  • To limit to title/abstract, put     Title-Abs(     before the term.

“Emergency services”[tiab]       needs to become 

(Title-Abs({Emergency services}))      

You can do this for a string of words within parentheses.   This is valid:

(Title-Abs({Emergency services} OR {Emergency department} OR ER))

  • To eliminate terms,  NOT    in Pubmed is    AND NOT    in Scopus.

Using our ongoing example of a search to find articles about distal clavical excisions, we need to put TITLE-ABS added before each concept (or each set of terms in parentheses).  Note: Scopus is very particular about placement of parentheses.  It might be easier to search on each set of terms separately, and put TITLE-ABS in front of each set. Once you've searched on all sets, you can click on "Search" and you'll see your search history.  You can combine them from there, using the #s of the searches (for example, you'll type in something like     #2 AND #3 AND #4 AND NOT #5).

(( TITLE-ABS ( distal  OR  lateral ) )  
AND  ( TITLE-ABS ( clavic* ) )  
AND  ( TITLE-ABS ( excision  OR  resection  OR  {Mumford Procedure} ) )  )
AND NOT  ( TITLE-ABS ( children  OR  pediatrics ) )

If you're not searching in the title/abstract fields, it's much simpler.  You may be able to cut and paste the entire generic search string into an Advanced Search box.  However, Scopus is really particular about parentheses and sometimes this doesn't work.  If you get an error message, you might have to search on each search string separately, then combine them by clicking on "Search" and you'll see your search history.  You can combine them from there, using the #s of the searches (for example, you'll type in something like    #2 AND #3 AND #4 AND NOT #5).

As before, once you have a completed, finalized search strategy in Scopus, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you paste that search string into the Word document you started (when you finalized the PubMed search string) along with a note about how many results were returned and the date you ran it.  This will allow you to re-run the search, and is necessary information for when you write your paper. 

To translate to CINAHL AND PsycINFO   These EBSCO databases have a controlled vocabulary. Here is a link to our CINAHL User Guide for additional information.

  • They use quotes to keep a phrase together (same as PubMed)
  • They DO have a controlled vocabulary, called “Subject Terms.”  Locate the correct Subject Term wherever needed by using the search box in the bar above the main search box.
  • They do NOT have an option for title/abstract.  They have Title, and separately, Abstract.  You will have to search each set of keywords once using TI, and again using AB, then combine them using OR.  That will give you results where the keywords show up in the Title OR Abstract.

Again using our ongoing example of the search for articles about distal clavical excisions, the search string for CINAHL or PsycINFO looks like this:

(( TI ( distal OR lateral ) 
     OR AB ( distal OR lateral ) ) 
AND ( (MH "Clavicle") 
     OR TI clavicle 
     OR AB clavicle ) )
AND ( TI ( excision OR resection OR "Mumford Procedure" ) 
     OR AB ( excision OR resection OR "Mumford Procedure" ) ) )
NOT ( TI ( children OR pediatric ) OR AB ( children OR pediatric ) )

If you're not searching in the title/abstract fields, it's much simpler:

(( distal OR lateral ) 
AND ( ( MH "Clavicle") OR clavicle )
AND  ( excision OR resection OR "Mumford Procedure" ) )
NOT (  children OR pediatric )

As always, once you have a completed, finalized search strategy, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you paste that search string into the Word document you started (when you finalized the PubMed search string) along with a note about how many results were returned and the date you ran it.  This will allow you to re-run the search, and is necessary information for when you write your paper. 


To translate to ERIC and other EBSCO databases that do NOT have a controlled vocabulary:
There are two options here.  If you already created the search in CINAHL or PsycINFO, EBSCO has a wonderful feature that will allow you to search multiple databases at once. To use this, once you've finished your search in CINAHL as shown above, click “Choose Databases” from the top menu, then select your next databases.  You can leave the search as is - it will ignore the Subject Terms you added  for the CINAHL search- and will search the new databases you selected.

If you didn't use CINAHL or PsycINFO (for example you just want ERIC):

  • They use quotes to keep a phrase together (same as PubMed)
  • They DO NOT have a controlled vocabulary
  • They do NOT have an option for title/abstract.  They have Title, and separately, Abstract.  You will have to search each set of keywords once using TI, and again using AB, then combine them using OR.  That will give you resutls where the keywords show up in the Title OR Abstrac

Again using our ongoing example, the search string for ERIC or other EBSCO databases that do not have suggested Subject Terms looks like this:

(( TI ( distal OR lateral ) 
     OR AB ( distal OR lateral ) ) 
AND ( TI clavicle 
     OR AB clavicle ) )
AND ( TI ( excision OR resection OR "Mumford Procedure" ) 
     OR AB ( excision OR resection OR "Mumford Procedure" ) ) )
NOT ( TI ( children OR pediatric ) OR AB ( children OR pediatric ) )

If you're not searching in the title/abstract fields, it's much simpler:

(( distal OR lateral ) 
AND ( clavicle )
AND  ( excision OR resection OR "Mumford Procedure" ) )
NOT (  children OR pediatric )

As always, once you have a completed, finalized search strategy, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you paste that search string into the Word document you started (when you finalized the PubMed search string) along with a note about how many results were returned and the date you ran it.  This will allow you to re-run the search, and is necessary information for when you write your paper. 

To translate to Cochrane:
This is a fairly simple process.  Cochrane does not have a controlled vocabulary. First click on Advanced Search, then paste the generic search string into a search box.  Change the drop-down box that reads "Title Abstract Keyword" to just "Title."  Next, paste the generic search string into the next search box and change the drop-down box to "Abstract."  Change the drop-down box that reads "AND" to "OR"  (it is very important to do this!).  Click "Run Search."

The next page will show you results from several Cochrane databases.  If you want to see Cochrane Systematic Reviews, click Cochrane Reviews.  If you want to see results from the Cochrane CENTRAL Register of Controlled Trials, click "Trials."

To translate to Google Scholar:

 There is no controlled vocabulary, so this is pretty easy.  The hardest thing about Google Scholar is that there is a character limit of 256 characters (approximately 2 1/2 lines of text).  You can save citations to your Library by clicking the star icon.

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