Skip to Main Content

Run your search on other databases

Run your search on other databases

After you have run your search on MEDLINE, you need to run it on your other databases. Your new search should be the same as your MEDLINE search, only changing as much as necessary to get it to work in the new database.

You cannot simply re-run your MEDLINE search across Embase and Emcare. You need to search Embase for the appropriate Emtree theaurus headings. These are not necessarily the same as the MEDLINE subject headings.

This page will show you how to remap your master MEDLINE search to other Ovid databases (Embase, Emcare, and PsycINFO), PubMed, The Cochrane Library, Scopus, and Web of Science.

Please note: database interfaces change frequently, and some of the resources on this page no longer match the current interfaces. The Library is currently reviewing all resources on this page.
The following PDF guides show how to translate your search to a range of databases. Correct at the time of production but subject to interface changes!

Search syntax - database search tips

Different databases use different search syntax, operators, and default search fields. When you are remapping your master search to your chosen databases, it is important to consider whether you will need to adapt any aspects of your search strategy such as phrase searches, truncation, wildcards, and adjacency.

The PDF below shows how to translate these elements across a number of key databases:

Translating a search in Ovid - method 1

The steps below represent our recommended method of translating a search to another database on the Ovid platform, to save time and reduce errors.

  • Create draft / master search in MEDLINE (Ovid)
  • Share strategy with yourself via Email All Search History option
  • Copy keyword lines from plain text section of Ovid email and save in plain text editor such as Notepad (PC) or TextEdit (Mac)
  • This will be your master keyword file - these are the keywords that you will use across every database (including those without subject headings, such as Scopus)
  • Copy MEDLINE subject headings into a MeSH column
  • Create columns for all other relevant thesauri e.g. Emtree (Embase, Emcare) and APA (PsycInfo)
  • You may find a notes column for each thesaurus helpful
  • Search for subject headings for each concept as you did for MEDLINE
  • You may find that the heading is the same, slightly different, a synonym, or not available as a subject heading in this thesaurus
  • Beware that exploding subject headings may find a different set of narrower terms in the new database
  • Add equivalent and new subject headings to the spreadsheet
  • Revisit your previous databases and check if newly discovered subject headings have equivalents
  • Update keyword lines in master keyword file with newly discovered terms (e.g from Emtree scope notes, or new subject headings)
  • Create new plain text file with subject headings for that database, master keyword lines, and line combinations (e.g. 3 AND 7)
  • There are instructions on how to use the launcher on the Top tools and techniques page. NOTE: the Launcher may not work with more complex searches off-campus.

The session recording below shows the process in action, demonstrating translation from MEDLINE to Embase and finally to Scopus.

Translating a search in Ovid - method 2

Select the headings below to learn how to remap your MEDLINE search to other Ovid databases. The process is the same whether you are remapping to Embase, Emcare, or PsycINFO.

Select the headings below to learn how to remap your search in Ovid.

  • Log in to MEDLINE and run your search.
  • Then select Change under the Search Tools box.

Ovid search interface

  • A new window will appear, listing the range of Ovid databases.
  • Select one of the databases to search (eg Embase) and then select Run Search.
  • Ovid will now run your search on this new database, ready for you to check and correct.
  • Your subject heading lines can be identified by the presence of a forward slash / after the term, see below.

    Screenshot of Medline search history with back pain subject line, showing back slash after the term to denote a subject heading
  • You will need to check any MeSH to ensure that they have mapped across correctly. To do this:
    • Look up each term without the forward slash (e.g. enter back pain not back pain/).
    • You may find that the heading is the same, slightly different, a synonym, or not available as a subject heading in this thesaurus.
    • Check the scope note (i icon on right) to establish that headings cover the same ideas as the original MeSH.

      Ovid search interface
  • Select the subject heading hyperlink to view the subject hierarchy - you may identify additional related or nested terms.

Note: Emcare and Embase share the same subject headings, so if you have run your search on Embase, you can rerun it on Emcare without any changes.

  • Keyword lines will not have a forward slash/ and will end in a field code such as .mp, which is the default code in Ovid.

Screenshot of Medline Search history showing keyword line with .mp shown after keyword terms

  • ​When remapping searches to different Ovid databases, you do not generally need to change your keyword lines.
  • You may, however, choose to change your field codes. E.g. to search across title, abstract and author-supplied fields in MEDLINE, Embase or Emcare you would use .ti,ab,kf.
  • When you have identified the correct subject headings for this database, you need to edit your search by selecting More > Edit.

    Ovid search history
  • Replace the term with the new subject heading, being sure to add the forward slash after the term (eg Backache/)
  • Run the search 
  • Save your search as a new copy. Include the database name in the title (eg Search: Embase version)
  • If you discover additional relevant subject headings, you can add these to your search. Just be sure to:
    • Revisit your previous databases and check if the term (or a similar subject heading) appears.
    • If so, add it to those searches too, and correct your combination lines.
    • Regardless, update the keyword line to include the new term for all databases.
  • If the subject headings are too broad or are not relevant, remove that subject heading line from your search. Be sure to correct your combination lines.
  • Remember the aim is to cover the same search scope as your master MEDLINE search.
Note: Embase and Emcare both use the same subject headings (the 'Emtree'), so mapping between these two databases is usually not necessary. However, Emcare subject headings are updated annually (Jan), while Embase subjects headings are updated three times a year. This means the two versions of the Emtree might be slightly inconsistent towards the end of the calendar year. To avoid this, double-check any Emcare subject heading lines that yield 0 results. 

Guidelines and standards

'If a tool was used to automatically translate search strings for one database to another, specify the tool used.' PRISMA 2020 Explanation and Elaboration, p. 7

[Note from UniSA librarians: while PRISMA acknowledges use of automation tools for search translation, these can be complex to learn and the results of varying quality. If you frequently undertake systematic searching, you may wish to explore these].

Other standards

Database thesauri (controlled vocabulary)

Many databases use a thesaurus. It's important to note which is used by the databases you search.

Database Thesaurus
Cochrane Library databases Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) (select records only)
MEDLINE Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
Emcare, Embase Emtree
PsycInfo Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms
SPORTDiscus Sports Thesaurus
CINAHL CINAHL Subject Headings
ERIC ERIC Thesaurus
ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, Web of Science databases, Scopus Inconsistently applied subject headings from various thesauri may be present. Search using keywords

Translating your search - videos

The following videos are complementary resources to the corresponding 'Translating your search' PDF documents, found on this page. They are current at March 2022

Translating your search from MEDLINE to Web of Science (5:04):

Translating your search from MEDLINE to the Cochrane Library (5:44):