4. How do I search for the evidence?
5. How do I search for the evidence?
Having identified the best sources of scientific literature that you have access to, you then need to conduct a search for suitable studies to answer your question.
You need to develop a search strategy so that you can be systematic in your searching and find as many of the relevant studies as possible, without missing any.
For those aiming to publish evidence syntheses
Evidence searches should be thorough, objective and reproducible, using a range of sources to identify as many studies as possible (within resource limits), to minimise bias and achieve reliable estimates of effects (Higgins et al., 2019).
For those using evidence, e.g. busy practitioners
A lack of time, funds, expertise, access to technology or resources need not negate an evidence search; we simply need to be as systematic as possible within the practical constraints we have. (Levay and Craven, 2019).
For those wishing to learn how to search the primary literature themselves
Start with a great question!
Consult EBVM Toolkit 2: Finding the Best Available Evidence
This guide was written by RCVS Knowledge Library staff to give a simple overview of best practice methods. It explains how to convert your PICO into a search strategy – take a look to see an example of how to do this. Also read the Ask section of this course.
Move onto searching!
It is worth investing some time in learning how to search bibliographic databases effectively. Understanding key principles of searching can help, but each database works in a slightly different way, so you need to learn how to use each different database.
Teach yourself how to search
Online training tutorials, guides and help pages from the database publishers can be a great source of help and they’re always there, whenever you are working 24/7/365!
Examples of free, online database training guides:
- PubMed for Veterinarians : an online tutorial by librarians at Texas A&M University.
- PubMed online training from the US National Library of Medicine
- Ovid : online training for MEDLINE and Embase
- Scopus : Learn and support, YouTube tutorials
- Web of Science : training and support for Web of Science, EndNote, and Kopernio YouTube tutorials
- CAB Abstracts – Resources for Database Users: schedule of live webinars, recorded webinars, and systematic review tools for CAB Abstracts on OVID and CAB Direct
- VetMed Resource training videos from CABI Publishing
TIP: Don't forget to ask medical and veterinary librarians and information professionals. They are trained in systematic literature searching and can offer advice and support. For example, in the UK, the RCVS Knowledge Library & Information Services can run literature searches for veterinarians.