Before you begin to search in the databases, you want to spend some time thinking about what terms you will use in your search.
There are two main types of search terms: Subject Headings and Keywords
Using a combination of keywords and subject headings will create a stronger search.
When searching the literature, you want to make sure you are searching for all the possible variations and different words that could be used to describe your topic. For example, using both the terms cavities and dental caries.
Synonyms are an important part of developing a thorough search strategy.
What is a Subject Heading?
Each database will have its own special set of terms or subject headings that the indexers use to describe articles.
When developing your search strategy, it is always a good idea to take a look at the subject headings for that database to ensure you are using the official term, as well as to get ideas for synonyms or alternative search terms to use.
Below are descriptions of some of the commonly used subject headings.
What is a Keyword?
In addition to searching with subject headings, you want to also include any synonym or similar keywords in your search. These are the terms that you might see in the titles and abstracts of the articles.
This is important to catch any results that may have been indexed with a different subject heading than you would expect.
In some databases, it will also help catch results that may not have been fully indexed yet (this is especially important in PubMed).