Skip top navigation

Ovid MEDLINE Search Instructions

Step One - Breaking Your Topic into Concepts and Beginning the Search

Think about the specific question that you are trying to answer, as this will help you identify the major concepts, or topics, that you need to search in MEDLINE. Begin by searching for the main concept of your question - this might be a disease, drug, anatomical region, etc. Secondary concepts like therapy, diagnosis, etc. can be added to your search strategy later in order to narrow the focus of your search.

If your topic has more than one main concept (for example, if you want articles that discuss both AIDS and TB or if you want studies that compare two or more drugs) then simply pick one of the concepts to search first. Once you have created a set of articles about this concept, you can start a new search on the other main concept and create a second set of articles. You can then combine these sets. See Step Five for more information about combining sets. (If you search for two concepts at the same time - for example "psoriasis and coal tar" - the database will default to keyword searching. Keyword searching skips steps 2, 3, and 4 so you will not be able to refine your search using the features available in those steps.)

Type the main concept of your query into the search text box.

Just above the search box you will see the command "Map Term to Subject Heading" - make sure that this is checked. When checked, you are telling the database to provide you with a "pick list" of MeSH terms associated with your topic; this will give you the opportunity to pick an appropriate MeSH term for your topic. (See Step Two for more information.)

Click on the "Perform Search" button.

EXAMPLE - Typing in a search topic


If you were interested in drug therapies for high blood pressure, then you would type "high blood pressure," into the search box. (Make sure that the box next to "Map Term to Subject Heading" is checked.) Then click on "Perform Search."

Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library | The George Washington University
2300 Eye St., NW, Washington, DC 20037 | Phone: (202) 994-2850 | Fax: (202) 994-4343