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Research Question
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Concept name

A word or short phrase describing each main idea.
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Brainstorming keywords

Think about how scholars might have described this concept in the title, abstract, and author-assigned keywords of their work. Don’t censor yourself here! It’s fine if terms end up going into the nope file eventually.

Consider:
Synonyms
Abbreviations
Spelling variations
Geographical variations
Changes in terminology over time
Terminology from other disciplines
Common misspellings
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Controlled vocabulary / subject headings

Not every database has a controlled vocabulary, but many do. It's rare for two databases to use the same one! Sometimes the terms in that controlled vocabulary or “thesaurus” are called subject headings, index terms, or descriptors. Using this terminology, in combination with searching for keywords, is essential for comprehensive searching.

In a database's thesaurus, look for recommended, broader, narrower, and related terms. Some of these will be incorporated into your search, but they can also become part of your keywords for searching. Also check the scope notes. Sometimes they recommend other subject headings, and they also note when indexers started assigning a term and what may have been used previously. This is important for locating related and older research.
Database: PubMed/MeSH


Database:


Database:


Database: PubMed/MeSH


Database:


Database:


Database: PubMed/MeSH


Database:


Database:


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More keyword ideas from controlled vocabulary

You already came up with lots of keywords before hunting for each database’s preferred terminology. Now consider: what words from the controlled vocabulary might you also search as keywords? Doing this will help you catch materials not yet indexed and indexed in databases that use different controlled vocabulary.

In a database like PubMed, “Entry Terms” are terms that automatically map to MeSH terms, which means they’re also good for keyword searching. Use this section to list the keywords inspired by your controlled vocabulary exploration.
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The nope file

Any terminology you tried that led you down the wrong path or cluttered your search results with irrelevant materials? Keep a record here of what they were and why they were unhelpful. You’ll want to avoid going down the same dead end twice!
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Adapted by Hilary Kraus at UConn Library from the work of Kate Nyhan at Yale University’s Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library.
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Search diary

The more detailed your records of your search process, the easier it will be to avoid repeating the same searches (successful or unsuccessful) and to document your search for any future reporting. Jot down notes that will help you later: dates, search terms, database names, etc. in whatever level of detail you wish. You can use the space below, or put a link to a separate Google doc, so you don't have to deal with issues of editing text in a spreadsheet.
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