6. Building a Search Strategy

  1. Caroline De Brún1 and
  2. Nicola Pearce-Smith2

Published Online: 15 NOV 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118463093.ch6

Searching Skills Toolkit: Finding the Evidence, Second Edition

Searching Skills Toolkit: Finding the Evidence, Second Edition

How to Cite

De Brún, C. and Pearce-Smith, N. (eds) (2014) Building a Search Strategy, in Searching Skills Toolkit: Finding the Evidence, Second Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118463093.ch6

Editor Information

  1. 1

    Clinical Support Librarian, UCL Library Services and Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK

  2. 2

    Information Scientist, Department of Knowledge and Information Science, Summertown Pavilion, Middle Way, Oxford, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 NOV 2013
  2. Published Print: 3 JAN 2014

Book Series:

Book Series Editors:

  1. Carl Heneghan,
  2. Rafael Perera and
  3. Douglas Badenoch

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781118463130

Online ISBN: 9781118463093



  • Boolean operators;
  • PICO method;
  • search strategy;
  • synonyms;
  • truncation;
  • wildcards


This chapter talks about building a search strategy. Making a list of all applicable terms is essential before evidence is searched, otherwise it is likely that a key piece of research could get missed out. The first stage involves to compile a list of synonyms for each of the keywords. Synonym sources include medical encyclopedias/dictionaries, colleagues, and patient information. Truncation and wildcards are handy little shortcuts for free-text searching, which can substantially reduce the number of search terms that need to be added. Boolean operators such as AND and OR, are words which combine the terms that have been selected for the search, making the search more relevant to the clinical question. Using the PICO table, along with the knowledge of Boolean operators, search strategy can be constructed. Finally, the chapter briefly explains refining of the strategy.