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Top tools and techniques


This page is all about saving you time while improving the quality of your searches.

Planning your systematic search

Recommended database search workflow

The diagram below represents one approach to systematic searching. It incorporates factors to consider, along with UniSA Librarians' tips to help make the process more efficient and your search more comprehensive, transparent, and reproducible.

Refining your comprehensive search

Video length: 11 min 15 sec

Explore further

There are many tools created to assist with the review process in one way or another. These tools will all have their unique pros and cons and it is ultimately up to you to assess their utility to support your workflows.

Easily edit searches with Ovid Search Launcher

Attention: the Ovid Search Launcher is currently not working off campus via Open Athens for complex queries. On campus access remains available. We are working with Ovid to resolve off campus issues.

Ovid Search Launcher allows you to enter your search in plain text, and run it in any UniSA-subscribed database on Ovid. The Launcher provides a quick and easy way to edit your searches while avoiding inconvenient timeouts on the Ovid platform. 

Paste a plain text version of your search strategy into the search launcher, select the database you want to search from the 'Choose databases' drop down menu, and then click outside the menu to retain your selection.

Off campus users: select the OpenAthens authentication checkbox, and enter 'University of South Australia' when prompted to Find your institution. Select the option with UniSA logo.

The codes below align with the UniSA subscriptions. It is recommended to search one database at a time.

  • MEDLINE - medall
  • Embase - emczd
  • Emcare - emcr
  • PsycInfo - psyh
  • JBI - jbi

Top tools

You may find the tools below useful through the search process.

Validation / sample set of studies

Develop sample set of relevant references  Test/sample papers Test search performance

A sample set of references that would be eligible for inclusion in your review can be a valuable tool. You can:

  • mine the database records for these references for relevant 'free text' terms (aka 'keywords') and subject headings
  • test your search performance by seeing if your draft search strategy would locate your sample papers

Developing your sample set:

  • consult your review group and subject experts
  • preliminary searching
  • reading
  • other reviews

'Mining' your sample set - search for the reference in MEDLINE and see if it is included (tip: search by Title). If it is, look at the Complete Reference and see what terms appear in the Title, Abstract, Subject Headings, Keyword Heading and any other relevant fields.

Testing search performance - search for the reference in MEDLINE and see if it is included (tip: search by Title). If it is, combine it with the final line of your search strategy using AND. If the record still appears, your search would have located this record, which is a positive indicator. If not, then review your strategy to see why this might have occurred (e.g. a missing keyword or subject heading, or too narrow a search). 

Searching for a test reference in MEDLINE

You may not be able to edit your strategy to locate all of your test set - for example, some records are poorly indexed. However you should be able to locate most.