Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Bridging Program Resource Guide: Creating a Search Strategy

An information resources guide to support your online course work in the School of Pharmacy's Bridging Program

Creating a Search Strategy

To find the evidence you need, it is key to make a research question searchable. Let's explore how to do this using this research question: 

How effective are mobile phone interventions in smoking cessation?

With this research question in mind, here is how it can be made 'searchable' in a database:

Step 1: Isolate the main concepts of your research question   

mobile phone interventions; smoking cessation

Step 2: Create a list of search terms for each concept  

mobile phone = smartphone, smart phone, cell phone, cellular phone, text, short messaging service, SMS

smoking cessation = quitting smoking, stopping smoking, smoking prevention

We will not include the word 'intervention' as literature discussing mobile phones and smoking cessation would likely already be in the context of mobile phones as an intervention.

Step 3: Use your search terms to create a single search statement 

(smartphone OR smart phone OR mobile phone OR cell phone OR cellular phone OR text OR short messaging service OR SMS) AND (smoking cessation OR quitting smoking OR stopping smoking OR smoking prevention) 

Tips: As each database is unique, it is important to consider if you need to tweak your search strategy for each database you search. Also, it is useful to consider using a combination of keywords (words appearing in the title and abstract of an article) and database subject headings (controlled vocabulary of the databases, such as MeSH, Emtree). 

Search Strategy Template

The below search strategy template is a tool you can use to go through the steps of creating a solid search strategy. Use the template to:

  • Identify your research question
  • Isolate the main concepts of your research question
  • Create a list of search terms for each concept  
  • Use your search terms to create a single search statement

The search strategy template also includes useful examples so be sure to check it out!