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Workshop: Systematic Reviews: Path to Publishing

writing guide for systematic reviews workshop group

Writing a Search Strategy


It is recommended that you work with a librarian to help you design comprehensive search strategies across a variety of databases. Writing a successful search strategy takes an intimate knowledge of bibliographic databases.  

Using Boolean logic is an important component of writing a search strategy: 

  • "AND" narrows the search, e.g. children AND exercise
  • "OR" broadens the search, e.g. (children OR adolescents) AND (exercise OR diet) 
  • "NOT" excludes terms, e.g. exercise NOT diet 
  • "*" at the root of a word finds all forms of that word, e.g. (child* OR adolescen*) AND (exercise* OR diet*)
  • parentheses ensure all terms will be searched together as a set 
  • quotations around a phrase searches that exact phrase, e.g. (child* OR adolescen* OR "young adult*") 

3 Venn diagrams displaying the differences between the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT. Using AND narrows a search by requiring that both terms (puppy and kitten) be included in the results. Using OR broadens a search by requiring either term (puppy or kitten) be included in the results. Using NOT excludes just one term (kitten) so that included results only mention puppy and any results that mention kitten are excluded.

Agriculture Example: 

Nutrition Example: