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Literature searching for Medical and Dental Sciences

Activity 3A: Medline (Ovid)

Please also note that the content of Medline (Ovid) is equivalent to that accessed through the PubMed interface.  If a search is carried out using Ovid Medline, then this does not need to be repeated on PubMed, unless instructed to do so by your tutor for example.  In addition, accessing the full-text of articles is easier through Ovid Medline as you are already signed in as a University user and links are provided via FindIt@Bham. 

For more about Ovid Medline and PubMed, see 'Ovid's Medline compared to PubMed' from LWW Wolters Kluwer.

Watch the above Panopto video from Academic Skills Centre on searching Medline (includes sub-titles).

Locate the entry for Ovid Medline on FindIt@Bham (or use the link at the top of this page) and follow this to open up a menu screen of Ovid databases.  Choose the option "Ovid Medline - 1946 to [recent date]" : all the articles there are indexed.  The non-indexed or in-process Medline options, as well as the other Ovid databases, should be ignored.


  • "Haemophilia A and blood transfusions"


NB: you should be in the default Advanced Search screen in Ovid Medline.  Advanced search will be in bold above the search bar in the centre screen.  This has the box "Map term to subject headings" automatically ticked: this will direct you to useful subject headings or MeSH for your topic.

  • Enter Haemophilia A in the search bar and click "Search"
  • Find Hemophilia A in the list of terms - subject headings - on the following page
  • Tick the box to the left of Hemophilia A and click Continue at the top of the screen
  • Select "Include all subheadings" on the next screen
  • This should take you to the home page again, with "Hemophilia A" at the top, and results lower down

Screenshot of Medline search screen with Haemophilia A in the search bar.  Default search page is advanced search.  Map term to subject headings points to medical subject headings



  • Now enter "Blood transfusion" in the search bar
  • Find the matching subject heading and tick the box to the left
    • NB: view the Scope note - 'i' icon - at the right end of the screen: this has a definition and other key information
  • You can also tick "Explode" further to the right of the "Blood transfusion" line: this will include more specific, narrower MeSH 
  • "Continue", and then tick to "Include all subheadings"
  • On the main search page, you should now have "Hemophilia A" followed by "Blood transfusion", on separate numbered lines

Screenshot of subject heading tree within Medline for Blood transfusion. Explode box on right



  • Tick the box to the left of each term towards the top of the screen
  • Note the grey boxes "And", "Or", underneath the headings, which have now become active
  • Click on AND.  This will narrow the search to items about both hemophilia A AND blood transfusions (not just hemophilia A on its own, or blood transfusions on its own)
  • See "A note about AND / OR" at the end of this page for details about these connecting words

Screenshot of connecting terms Haemophilia A, Blood transfusion, with AND in Medline



  • Suitable MeSH terms are not always available
  • A search across multiple fields such as Title, Abstract can be carried out by unticking "Map term to subject heading" on the initial Advanced Search page under the search bar
  • Then simply enter the word[s] you wish to search
    • Techniques such as the Truncation Symbol * (asterisk) can be used for these searches
    • For example: transfus* will search across multiple fields for words starting with those letters - transfusion, transfuses, transfused etc
    • See the Library's Guide to Effective Search Techniques for more information
  • This will produce a further line of search which can be combined with other lines, as above, using Boolean AND, OR


  • In the middle of the screen, there are limits, for example English Language, Human, Review Articles, Publication Dates (you select the from - to range)
  • These are good to use after you have selected and combined your main search terms
  • Try: English Language, Review Articles and click Search to apply these limits
  • The "Additional Limits" have detailed options such as age groups, publication types (Clinical Trials, Systematic Reviews etc)


  • Now look at the results lower down the screen
  • You can use the Abstract arrow to look at a summary, or select Complete reference to the right of the article for more details
  • ‚ÄčTo view the Full Text, click on the FindIt@Bham icon link to the right of the article, or Full Text if this is available


Screenshot of basic Limits options in Medline, also options for individual records to show complete reference, full-text links, abstract


Ovid (LWW Wolters Kluwer) have also produced some official video guides to aspects of Medline.  The following are especially worth viewing.  To see full transcripts, select the notes option - from the folder icon - which displays the notes underneath the slides, as subtitles are not available.  

Advanced search                                                                   Special techniques in Medline     


These are available also, with other guides, on the Ovid Medline 'Tools' page from Wolters Kluwer, which includes the PICO Resource Center

What does MeSH stand for? 

  • MeSH are Medical Subject Headings - or thesaurus or indexing terms - and form a structure for databases such as Medline.  They will help you find articles on the same topics
  • MeSH may have narrower topics nested within them: tick Explode to include these as well. The narrower topics will be indented further to the right than the broader heading
  • You can click on the heading itself, or use the Scope note at the right for a definition of the term and other information

Screenshot of subject heading Blood transfusions, with explode box and scope note

Screenshot of detailed subject tree for Blood transfusions, with explode option

Once you have searched for all of your concepts, you will need to combine them as before, using OR, then AND as appropriate. 

Watch the above Panopto Video from the Academic Skills Centre, UoB, on freetext searching (includes sub-titles).

FREETEXT searches: or, an alternative to "MeSH"  

If there is no relevant subject heading for your concept, you can use free text/keyword searching – to do this, untick the Map Term to Subject Heading box, and type your keyword(s) into the search box.

Some tips for better freetext searching:

  • Boolean OR function to combine related terms - eg GP OR "family doctor" OR "family physician"
  • Boolean AND function to combine different parts of a search topic - eg Primary care AND health promotion
  • Truncation symbol - asterisk * -  to indicate alternative word endings - eg therap* for therapy, therapies, therapist (etc)
  • Wildcards such as a question mark symbol cover alternative spellings (eg UK - US variants) within a word
    • In Medline: p?ediatric* will search for paediatrics, pediatrics, as well as paediatrician, pediatrician (etc) 
  • Proximity or adjacency search looks for words occurring within so many words of the other
    • In Medline, use the form adjn
    • E.g.: psych* adj2 therap*

For more about these features, see the Academic Skills Centre's guide to Effective Search Techniques.

Screenshot of  freetext Medline search "GP OR "family doctor" OR "family physician"

Watch the above Panopto video from Academic Skills Centre (includes sub-titles).


  • In the middle of the screen, there are limits, for example English Language, Human, Review Articles, Publication Dates (you select the from - to range)
  • These are good to use after you have selected and combined your main search terms
  • Try: English Language, Review Articles and click Search to apply these limits
  • The "Additional Limits" have detailed options such as age groups, publication types (Clinical Trials, Systematic Reviews etc)

Watch the above Panopto video from Academic Skills Centre, UoB, on saving results from a Medline search to EndNote Online.  Includes sub-titles.

To save individual results, or sets of results, tick the box for "All" above the list of results in a Medline search, or individual boxes.

  • Then choose Print, Email or Export
  • Export also allows for saving results as an .ris file to then upload into EndNote Online (or other referencing software)
  • See also the EndNote Online guide page "Adding References from Ovid databases"

Screenshot of articles selected by tick-box to either print, email or export


Search History

To save the whole search history - that is, everything you've been doing - use "Save all" under the summary of the searches.

  • The first time you do this, you will need to create an account with Ovid - just click on 'Create account' 
  • When you have created an account, you should be given a template to save the search
  • Add a search name in the top bar to save the search
  • To re-run the search another time, sign in to your account within the database and go to either 'View Saved' towards the top right, or select 'My Workspace' (top centre), then 'My Searches and Alerts'
  • Tick the box by the saved search, then select '>Run' to re-run the search: this will be performed and then appear on the main search screen

Screenshot of Ovid screen for setting up a personal account




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