Advanced search

To search an exact word(s) use quotation marks, e.g. "hospital" finds hospital; hospital (no quotation marks) finds hospital and hospitals; pay finds paid, pays, paying, payed)

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Using Search Functionality

This tab provides information on the most commonly used features for the tab being used. For complete information on New Search including demonstrations, information on error messages, and FAQ's, click here

Using Search Manager

Use the Search Manager to create and save complex multi-line searches. Supports the use of logical operators, field labels, nesting, and wildcards.
Search Manager Basics

Saving Searches and Using Saved Searches

Search commands and syntax

Entering Search Terms

  • Enter search term(s) in box. By default on Search Manager Tab, common variants of the word are NOT searched.
  • If two or more terms are entered, search will combine the terms with “AND” to find articles or selected fields where both terms appear.
  • To search a phrase, put terms in quotes, “lung cancer” searches for that specific phrase.

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Searching with and without word variants (automatic stemming)

When a term is entered, the search automatically finds the variants of the word, eliminating the need to enter common variants.

  • Linguistic variants: clear finds clear, clears, cleared, clearing, clearer, clearest.
  • Common British vs. American spelling variants: tumor also finds tumour.
  • Non-standard plural variants: mouse also finds mice.
  • Common irregular verbs: run also finds ran, runs, running.

When using Search Manager Tab, putting words in quotes means variations will not be searched. This feature is also disabled if search terms include wildcards (* or ?)

To find variations for terms in quotes on the Search Manager tab, you must uncheck “Word variations will not be searched” tick box under the Search Limits.

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Searching Multiple Terms

When entering two or more terms without quotes, search will “AND” all terms. Finds articles where all terms must appear in the article (or selected fields).

Example: lung cancer (finds articles containing lung and cancer anywhere in the article)

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Phrase Searching

To search for a phrase, put terms in quotes. Phrase search does NOT support the use of wildcards.

Example: “diabetes mellitus” (finds the phrase diabetes mellitus in the article or selected fields)

Example: “Food and Drug Administration” (finds phrases that contain a Boolean operator (AND, OR, NOT))

Example: hearing NEXT aid* (If using wildcards, use NEXT operator)

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Combining Searches

Combine results from multiple search lines into a single result set can be done using Boolean logic (AND, OR, NOT) and nesting. Precedence rules apply if nesting is not used.

Example 1: #1 or #2 or #3

Example 2: (#1 or #2) and #3

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Combining Searches using ranges

When combining searches, users can enter line numbers separately, #1 and #2 and #3 and #4 or search a range of lines, {AND #1-#4}. Range searching can be used with “AND” or “OR” operators and must be enclosed in {}. As with individual line numbers, inserting or deleting a line will automatically update the line in which search ranges are combined.


{AND #1-#4} searches #1 and #2 and #3 and #4

{OR #1-#4} searches #1 or #2 or #3 or #4

{AND #1,#7,#9} searches #1 and #7 and #9

{AND #1-#4,#9}searches #1 and #2 and #3 and #4 and #9

{OR #1-#4,#9,#11-#13} searches #1 or #2 or #3 or #4 or #9 or #11 or #12 or #13

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Use the button to limit by database, status, review group or date. There are two dates to choose from:

  • Publication Date: This is the year that the document was originally published. For a Cochrane Review which has been updated, this is the date of the last significant update.

  • Cochrane Library Online Publication Date: This is the date (month / year) that the Cochrane Review was added or last updated on the Cochrane Library.

If you only have the Cochrane issue and year and not the month and year information, refer to the Cochrane Library Online Load dates for each issue.

Click “Apply” to select limits and “Go” to run your search using these new limits.

To apply a limit to all articles in The Cochrane Library, place * in the search box and select your limits.

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Adding a MeSH Search

Use the button to add a MeSH term to the Search manager.

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Editing a MeSH Search

Use the button to edit a MeSH term added to the Search Manager. Selecting this button will take you back to the MeSH Tab where you can edit your term or select a new term. Once you have made changes have confirmed the search results reflect these changes, you must select the “Update Search Manager” link to transfer these changes to the Search Manager.

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Entering a MeSH Search directly in Search Manager

For users familiar with MeSH headings, it is possible to enter one or more MeSH searches directly in the Search Manager using the search box and the following syntax.

NOTE: MeSH searches must be placed in square brackets, [ ], to be recognized

To search a MeSH heading, with term explosion, use the mh label. By default, the term will be exploded

Example: [mh vaccines]

To search a MeSH heading, without term explosion, use the mh label and insert a caret, ^, in front of the term

Example: [mh ^vaccines]

To search a MeSH heading that is a phrase, use the mh label and put the phrase in quotes. By default, the term will be exploded

Example: [mh "viral vaccines"]

To search a MeSH heading that is a phrase, without term explosion, use the mh label, put the phrase in quotes and place a caret, ^, in front of the term

Example: [mh ^"viral vaccines"]

To limit a search by one or more qualifiers, use a slash, /, followed by the two-letter abbreviation for the qualifier. If searching for more than one qualifier, separate them with a comma.

Example: [mh vaccines/AE] Searches, Vaccines, exploded and limited to qualifier Adverse Effects (AE)

Example: [mh ^"viral vaccines"/AD,AE] Searches Viral Vaccines, NOT exploded and limited to qualifiers Administration and Dosage (AD) or Adverse Effects (AE)

NOTE: Qualifiers must be entered in capitals, e.g. AE not ae

To search for any records indexed using a specific qualifier, use the mh label and the desired qualifier(s)

Example: [mh /AE] Searches any articles with qualifier, Adverse Effects (AE) Example: [mh /AD,AE] Searches any article with qualifier, Administration and Dosage or Adverse Effects

To limit a search by MeSH headings with a major focus, use [mj] limit

Example: [mh vaccines [mj]] Searches Vaccines limited to major concepts

Example: [mh ^"viral vaccines"[mj]/AD,AE] Searches Viral Vaccines limited to major concepts, NOT exploded, and limited to qualifiers Administration and Dosage (AD) or Adverse Effects (AE)

Search multiple MeSH terms in one search line using “AND”, “OR” or “NOT”.

Example: [mh vaccines] and [mh "hepatitis b"] Searches MeSH term Vaccines and hepatitis b

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Insert and Delete a Line

Use the and buttons to add or delete search lines. All combined search lines are automatically updated to reflect the additions or deletions.

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Highlight Orphan Lines

Orphan Lines are search lines that have not been used in your final search results. By selecting the “Highlight Orphan Lines” tick box, these Orphan lines will be identified.

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Viewing Results

To view results, click on the result count for that search line.

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Print Search with Counts

After you have created or run your strategy, use the icon at the top of your strategy to view a print-friendly version of your strategy with counts.

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Naming and Saving Strategies

To save a strategy, user must be registered and logged into their account. To save a strategy, enter a name in the box provided and hit “Save Strategy”. After you have saved your strategy, the name of the strategy will appear at the top of the page.

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Running Saved Strategies

To run a saved strategy, user must be registered and logged into their account. From the Strategy Library, use the button to run a saved strategy.

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Adding One Strategy to Another

Use the Append button . The appended search will be correctly renumbered but user will need to create a final combined search to merge counts from the two searches. The append feature allows users the ability to create reusable search modules.

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Sharing a Strategy

From the Strategy Library in Search Manager, use the button to send a link to another user to let them run and view results of your shared strategy on The Cochrane Library. Select “Send this link via email” to open an email message with this link embedded or “Copy this link” to copy the link and paste it into a document or webpage.

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Exporting a Search

Use the icon in the Strategy Library to generate a text version of your saved strategy without counts.

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Setting (and turning off) a Saved Strategy Alert

For saved search strategies, users can set an alert and receive an email every time new articles retrieved by their search strategy are published in The Cochrane Library. To set alerts, a user must be a registered user of The Cochrane Library and be logged in to their account. To set an alert, go to the Strategy Library Section and click on the arrow, ►, to see all saved searches. Find the search you wish to set the alert for and click the checkbox at the end of the search line. A check in the box means the alert is on; removing the check will turn the alert off.

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Boolean Operators:

Supports use of AND, OR, NOT to combine search terms.

Both terms MUST appear in the article or selected field(s).

Example: insulin AND diabetes

At least one of the terms MUST appear in the article or selected field(s).

Example: heart OR cardiac

The first word must appear but the second word cannot appear in the article or selected field(s).

Example: aids NOT hearing

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Proximity Operators:

Supports use of NEAR, NEAR/X and NEXT. Finds terms within close proximity to each other in the article or field(s) being searched

Finds the terms when they are within 6 words of each other. Terms can appear in either order.

Example: cancer near lung (finds lung cancer as well as cancer of the lung)

Finds the terms when they are within X words of each other where X = the maximum number of words between search terms. Terms can appear in either order.

Example: cancer near/3 lung (finds lung cancer, as well as, cancer of the lung)

Finds the terms when they appear next to each other. Terms must appear in the order specified. Use the NEXT operator for phrase searching with wildcards.

Example: lung next cancer (finds lung cancer but not cancer of the lung)

Example: hearing NEXT aid* (find hearing aid and hearing aids)

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Order of Precedence

If a search contains more than one Boolean operator and it does not use nesting, the system will perform the operations in the following order:

  • All NOT operations first
  • All AND operations second
  • All OR operations last

For better precision, use nesting to specify order of operations.

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Nesting (or grouping terms)

Use parentheses () to explicitly group searches using Boolean or proximity operators. Use this feature to change the default precedence order.

Example: (kidney OR renal) AND dialysis

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Wildcard (or truncation)

Use to find terms containing a common word root. Use * to search for one or more characters, and ? for a single character. A wildcard can be added to the right (end of term), left (beginning of term) and internal (within) a term, however the word root must be at least 3 characters.

transplant* Use an asterisk (*) to match all terms beginning with a word root.
Finds transplant, transplants, transplanting, transplantation, and transplantable.

*glycemia Use an asterisk (*) at the beginning of a word to match terms with the same suffix.
Finds hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.

leuk*mia Use an asterisk to match multiple characters within a word.
Finds both leukemia and leukaemia.

wom?n Use a question mark (?) to match a single character within a word.
Finds women or woman.

system? Use a question mark to match all terms beginning with the word root + one additional character.
System? Will match system and systems but not systematic or systemic.

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Searching with Field Labels

Limit to specific fields using the following field labels.

If NO field label is used, “All text” will be searched. All text search DOES NOT include references.

To search using multiple labels, separate field labels using commas (:ti,ab,kw).

Example: (cancer near lung):ti,ab,kw

:ti Title
Use this label to limit search to terms in the article title.

Example: “lung cancer”:ti

:ab Abstract
Use this label to limit to the Abstract field.

Example: cancer:ab

:kw Keywords
Use this label to limit to Keywords. Limit includes MeSH terms but does not allow for MeSH term explosion.

Example: (hearing next aid*):kw

:au Author
Use label to limit a search to the author field.

Example: smith:au

:pt Publication Type
Use this label to limit to Publication Type. Used only in CENTRAL.

Example: journal:pt

:so Source
Use this label to limit to the Title of journal, conference name, report name, etc.

Example: cardiology:so

:tb Tables
Use this label to limit to the Captions of tables.

Example: smoking:tb

:doi Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Use this label to limit a search using a DOI. Must search using the entire number.

Example: 10.1002/14651858.CD003137.pub4

:an Accession Number
Use this label to limit a search on text or id numbers found in the Accession Number field in some CENTRAL articles. It will allow users to search based on the source database, Pubmed or Embase, or accession number ID.

Pubmed:an (Limit to search results to a specific database)

2006328324:an (Search a specific ID number)

Embase:an NOT Pubmed:an (Combine with Boolean logic to isolate articles only found in one of the databases)

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