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Searching OVID


									Searching OVID:
A guide to PsycINFO, Medline
         and Embase

          Autumn 2008

              Sonya Lipczynska
      Institute of Psychiatry Library
               020 7848 0645
                           Introduction to OvidSP

Course objectives:

At the end of the course you will be able to:
     Access the databases through the internet.
     Describe the databases hosted by OVID and the material they cover.
     Formulate various search strategies by generating search terms and
       combining them using AND/OR commands.
     Search the databases using a combination of methods including
       subject heading and free-text searches, searching by author and using
       search limits.
     Save search strategies
     Display, email or save search results.

Developing literature-searching skills means developing an ability to search
in a purposeful and systematic manner through the range of literature of
information relevant to your particular field.

Literature searching is important to your research work for two main
reasons. Firstly your essays and written assignments need to be well
researched if you wish to obtain high grades. Secondly, the purpose of
literature searching is often to assemble a body of literature for a review
that is undertaken before a research project can be started.

In practice, literature searching ensures that you are aware of the latest
and most accurate opinions, treatments and research results in order to
carry out best practice. Evidence-based practice has become a key part of
health care work.

You can access the OVID-hosted databases by following the link to the
library homepage and selecting Medline, PsycINFO and Embase from the
Quick Links column.
IOP library homepage:

Alternatively, you can link directly to the Athens authentication page here:

                           The OvidSP databases

    A bibliographic database produced by the American Psychological
      Association (APA). It is the major literature source in the field of
      psychology and related clinical, biological and social literature.
    The database encompasses over 1.5 million references covering a
      range of scholarly publications including journals, books, theses,
      reports and grey literature.
    The database extends back to 1806 and is an ideal source for
      historical literature in the field of psychology and psychiatry.
    It includes material published in over four countries and written in
      more than 30 languages.
    However, there is an American bias both in the literature covered and
      in the spelling of terms included in the database.
    The database is updated monthly.

   Bibliographic database produced by the National Library of Medicine
      in the US
   Contains more than 10 million references to journal articles in the
      health sciences, although it does not include other types of literature
      such as technical reports or monographs.
   It covers literature from 1950 to the present day.
   It has an American bias which affects the literature coverage, spelling
      and descriptive terms.
   Medline is updated monthly.

   Bibliographic database produced by the publishing company Elsevier
     Science which is based in the Netherlands.
   The strengths of this database lie in the field of drug research,
     pharmacology and toxicology.
   There is a 50% coverage overlap with Medline, but Embase has a
     European rather than an American bias. You can search for Anglo-
     centric terms and phrases here.
   Approximately 3,500 journals are indexed.
   The database extends back to 1947 and is updated monthly.

                       How to choose your database

There are several factors to consider when selecting the database with
which to initiate your search.

What subject does it cover?
Not using the database which caters most specifically to the subject you are
searching for, while you will find some articles of interest, you may miss
much of the information available in your field of study. For example,
Medline will give you a few references that deal with schizophrenia, but you
might miss a large number of references which might be indexed in
PsycINFO. Alternatively, should you search only PsycINFO for
pharmacological references, you will miss out on the huge range of
references available on Embase.

To do a fully comprehensive search, it is advisable to search through a
number of different databases, bearing in mind that there may be some
overlap in the results you retrieve.

What type of information is included in the database?
Most of the databases cover journal articles only. PsycINFO on the other
hand, covers a range of sources including books, technical reports,
dissertations and grey literature.
N.B. if you are searching primarily for books on a particular topic, you
should check the King’s College Catalogue first at this address:

                         Before you start searching

Carrying out a literature search can be a very time consuming process. It is
important that you spend some time thinking about what kind of
information you require and how you might search for it. Before you begin
searching, define your question or topic and establish a search strategy. Be
prepared to modify this strategy as the search progresses and you evaluate
your results.

      Express your search topic as a statement, question or hypothesis:
          o How can CBT be used to help the family relationships of
             schizophrenic patients?

      Identify the main concepts. Think about alternativ e words and
       phrases or spellings of the subjects in your search.
          o CBT, cognitive therapy, cognitive behavio(u)r(al) therapy,
              family, siblings, parents, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder.

                                                 BEGINNING YOUR SEARCH

                             Following the instructions on p.2, logon to the OVID system using
                              your Athens username and password.
                             When you reach the OvidSP front page, click on Continue to access
                              the list of databases
                             Select a database by clicking on the hyperlinked name.

                     You will be taken to the initial search interface:

                                                 M ap Term to Subject
                                                 heading: whatever you
                                                 enter will be matched to
Advanced search
                                                 the most appropriate
lets you build up
                                                 subject heading.
a detailed subject

                Most of the information in these databases are organised using Subject
                Headings. For any given topic, there is likely to be more than one way of
                describing it. For example:

                Cognitive therapy: CBT, cognitive therapy, cognitive behaviour/behaviour

                BY using the subject headings you will find all articles on CBT under the
                official subject heading, Cognitive Therapy, irrespective of how individual
                authors have described the topic.

                In order to construct a thorough literature search it is a good idea to use the
                Advanced Ovid Search to make full use of the Subject Headings.

                This is the Advanced OvidSP Search front page:

Use Find Citation to
locate single articles,
useful if you have
incomplete or                                                   Search Tools      Search Fields
incorrect references                                            enables you to    will allow you
to find.                                                        search within     to refine your
                              The default
                              search is set to                  Ovid tools such   search by other
                              Keyword. You                      as Scope Notes    parameters
                              can also search                   and Permuted      such as
                              under Author,                     Index             Location or
                              Title and                                           Cited Authors

                                   Constructing a subject heading search

                What the OvidSP system allows you to do is to break down your search i nto
                separate topics, retrieve results for each of them before combining your
                searches to create a set of results which is accurate and easy to evaluate.
                For example, this is a search for articles about treating eating disorders
                using cognitive therapy techniques:

                In this search there are two main topics: Cognitive Therapy and Eating
                     Start your search by typing eating disorders into the keyword box
                     You will retrieve one subject heading: Eating Disorders
                     To look at the heading in more depth, click on the hyperlink to access
                        the subject tree.
                                                                  Explode:                Focus :
                                                                  Use Explode to          Use Focus to
                                                                  include ALL             retrieve articles
                                                                  narrower terms          where the subject
                SUBJECT TREE FOR “EATING DISORDERS”               in your search          heading is the
                                                                                          MAIN focus.

M ain subject

 M ore
 specific                                                                                       Scope note:
 examples of
 the subject                                                                                    Definition
                                                                                                and date of
                                                                                                entry of the
  which are
  to the
  subject in

                      When beginning a search, it is a good idea to retrieve as many results
                       as possible, so if you can, select the “Explode” function and click on
                      Your results will be displayed on the main page.

          Now enter the next part of the search in the keyword box, in this
           case “CBT”
          In this instance, the search engine has provided a list of subject
           headings in this general area. You can click on each of them to look
           at the subject tree, or simply select the ones you want from the list
           and click on Continue.
          You will now have two sets of results displayed on the main page.
          You can combine these sets to retrieve articles on Eating Disorders
           AND Cognitive Therapy. Select the sets you want to combine (in this
           case Set 1 and Set 2) and click on AND.

  This search has been refined from thousands of hits to just 675.

  Further limits
  You can refine your search still further by using the Limits option.

Click here to
access the
Limit options

                         Click here to access
                         further Limit options

  By clicking on Additional Limits you will be able to limit your search using a
  variety of options.

                                                                        Limit by
Limit by                                                                language

                                                                                   Limit by
                                                                                   age group.

         Warnings about subject headings
         Thesaurus subject headings were not developed until 1967 and are not
         retrospective. Therefore records stored on the database prior to this date
         will not contain descriptors from the thesaurus. Terms added to the
         database in later years have not always been applied to records already in
         existence so they would not be included in your results.

         It is also important to identify changes in professional terminology.

               Example: the phrase posttraumatic stress disorder did not appear
               in any records until 1980. To perform a thorough search you will also
               need to search under terms such as shell shock, battle fatigue,
               combat fatigue etc.

         You can check the date of entry and the definition of a topic by clicking on
         the Scope Note icon     in the subject tree screen.

         Obscure phrases or terms may not be included in the thesaurus, for
         example, rare conditions such as Diogenes syndrome. The majority of the
         OVID-hosted databases have an American bias so anglocentric phrases such
         as “National Health Service” will also not be included in the thesaurus.

         To overcome these potential problems you can perform a free text search.
         This means that OVID will retrieve any articles which contain your search
         words exactly as you have expressed them in the search. You will need
         to be aware of spelling errors, differences between UK English and US
         English spellings, and any synonyms for your topic.

                       Performing a free text search

      You will need to express your search in as much detail as possible to
       get back a good set of results.
      Use the truncation symbol ($) to compensate for multiple words
       endings, for example, anorexi$ will retrieve anorexia, anorexic or
      The Map Term to Subject Heading box should be unchecked

Using Boolean language
You can use Boolean operators such as AND, OR and NOT, to connect your
terms. The operator you choose will affect the number of results you

Use AND to retrieve articles which contain all your terms:

       schizophrenia                                         drug abuse

                                  retrieved results

This search will retrieve only those records which contain both terms. Any
records which contain ONLY schizophrenia or ONLY drug abuse will not be

Use OR to retrieve articles which contain one or more of your search terms.

For example, this is a diagram of a search for drug abuse or drug misuse

          drug abuse                                     drug misuse

                        --------retrieved results-------
This search will retrieve records containing the term drug abuse. It will
ALSO retrieve any records containing the term drug misuse. It will also
retrieve any records containing BOTH terms

Use NOT to narrow your search by excluding certain concepts. This is a
diagram of a search for eating disorders but we are not interested in

                    -----------Eating disorders-----------

   retrieved terms               drug abuse                 obesity

Any records containing the term obesity will not be retrieved EVEN if they
also contain the term eating disorders.

Truncation ($)
Truncation is used:
    When you are searching for a term which has varied spelling s (e.g.
      American/English counseling/counselling or behavior/behaviour).
    When you are searching for all variations of a certain term (for
      example social work/social worker/social workers or

You can use this function to find single words or concepts which appear in
the same sentence. This is an ideal way of refining your search or retrieving
very specific titles. For example

                     Schizophrenia same haloperidol

Will find articles where both terms occur within the same sentence. If you
click on the title icon and re-enter the same search, you will retrieve
articles where both terms appear in the title only.

                        Saving your search strategy

Saving searches allows you to store search sets that you have created during
your current search session. You can then logout from the OVID system and
retrieve your search at a later time without having to retype each search set
manually. You can save a search strategy temporarily (168 hours),
permanently, or as an AutoAlert (SDI).

Saving your search will also allow you to:
    Run the search again after the database has been updated so that you
      can retrieve the latest documents on your topic.
    Save your search history even if your login times out.
    Exit you web browser to work on other applications and login later to
      pick up where you left off.

What is an AutoAlert (SDI)?
An AutoAlert (SDI) is a saved search that runs automatically without any
intervention on your part. When you save an AutoAlert in a database, it will
run periodically, retrieving any new-added citations which match your saved
search, and emailing them to your inbox.

To save your search history:

      Click the Saved Search History button underneath the Search History
      If you haven’t already done so, you will need to create a personal
       account on the OVID system. Click Create Personal Account and
       enter a username, password and email address that you can
       remember easily.
      You will then be taken to the Save Current Search page. Allocate a
       name to your search. You may fill in the Comments box if you wish,
       but this is not compulsory.
      From the drop-down menu select Temporary, Permanent or
      If you have select AutoAlert you will be prompted to enter an email
       address and select update options (what you want your alerts to look
       like, how much information they should contain, scheduling of alerts

      Click on Save. A message in red will appear on the OVID main search
       page telling you that your search has saved successfully.
      To re-run your search, select Saved Searches/Alerts from the top
       right hand corner of the main search screen and login.

Displaying, emailing or saving search results
The Citation Manager appears on the left hand side of the display page. It
lets you display, print, save or email citations.

   1) The Citations Column lets you choose which citations to save: citations
      displayed on the current page, all the citations in your current set (can
      be up to 200 at a time), or only those citations you have selected.
   2) The Fields column lets you select how much information to include for
      each citation. It is recommended that you choose the default
      “citation+abstract” as this will give you all the necessary details
      including a brief abstract.
   3) The Citation Format column determines the appearance of the
      citations. Select “Ovid” unless you know that you need another format
      (e.g. for reference manager software). Click the “Include Search
      History” checkbox to include your complete search strategy with the
   4) Sort options let you determine the order of your output. It may be
      useful to sort by source and date for ease of retrieval.
   5) The Action column lets you click a button to output your selected
           To print the citations, click the “Display” button, then use your
              Web browser’s print function to print the cita tions on the screen
           To email citations, click the “Email” button. You can then either
              email the references to an email address of your choosing.
           To save (download) citations, click the “Save” button.

                          New features in OVID 2008

Find Citation
This function will allow you to search for a specific citation by author, article
title, journal title and publication year.

Fill in the form with as much information as you have and click on “Search”

Find Similar/Find Citing Articles

Find Similar will retrieve articles in the same subject area as the chosen

Find Citing Articles will retrieve articles which cite the article you are looking

View Abstract will display the abstract automatically without navigating away
from the main page

Annotate allows you to add your own notes to a record. Click on the yellow
icon to access the note field (will appear in another window).

Accessing the databases

All the abovementioned databases are available over the internet, so you can
access them wherever you have internet access.

Access from the IOP
   Logon to the IOP network using your username and password.
   Once connected, open up a web browser such as Netscape or Internet
   The default web page will be the IOP home page. Select the library
     link on the left hand side of the page.
   In the Quick Links column in the centre of the page, select Medline,
     PsycINFO and Embase.
   You will be taken to the Athens login page.
   For databases not in this menu, click on the “Database A-Z” link on the
     library home page for an alphabetical list of all the available electronic

Access from home
If you have subscribed to an Internet Service provider, you can access the
databases from home

    Connect to the Internet as you would do normally, open up your web
     browser and locate the database by going first to the library homepage
     and following the abovementioned steps
    OR go directly to the web address of the OVID databases at

Getting further help

Help screens – OVID provide content-linked and general help screens. Look
at these and print them out if you find them helpful.

Contact library staff – Most library staff are able to help with simple
problems. For more in depth assistance, contact Sonya Lipczynska on: 020
7848 0645, email:

               Search Strategy Checklist
   1. Define the topic

   2. Break it down into component concepts

   3. Decide on the words/phrases to describe concepts
         terminology
         spelling
         synonyms

   4. Decide on the relationships including TRUNCATION

   5. Try out the search

   6. Display results

   7. Refine the search if necessary

       Put alternatives
       Reduce the number of linked terms
       Change terminology

        Link terms
        Add terms
        Change terminology

Our library information guides are available in different formats - large
print, different font/colour options and our web page. If you would
prefer a different format please contact
or telephone 020 7848 0206 for further information.


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