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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"


  • Enter Blood transfusion in the search bar and ‘Search’

Medline term

  • Find Blood transfusion in the list of terms on the following screen
    • Note the Scope note ('i' icon) on the right of the screen: you can select this to view a definition of the term and other or 'Used for' wording. This can be very useful in clarifying terminology in different contexts or locations
  • Now click directly on the heading 'Blood transfusion'
    • This will show the subject tree, with narrower terms underneath 'Blood transfusion' indented to the right
  • Tick the box to the left of 'Blood transfusion', and the ‘Explode’ column box on the right
    • 'Explode' will include the narrower terms clustered within Blood transfusion
    • 'Continue' (top of screen)

Medline blood transfusion subject tree

  • On the next screen tick the box to ‘Include all subheadings’

Blood transfusion subject tree

  • The term will then be shown as a summary line on the main page, with individual items listed further down the screen

Medline summary line on main screen



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
  • Click directly on the heading itself to view the screen with a detailed view of the subject tree
  • There are no further terms indented to the right under 'Hemophilia A'
    • So, just tick the box to the left of Hemophilia A and 'Continue'
    • Select 'Include all subheadings' on the next screen
  • This should take you to the home page again, with "Hemophilia A" at the top, under Blood transfusion


  • Tick the box to the left of each term towards the top of the screen
  • Note the boxes  AND, OR,  underneath the headings, which have now become active
  • Select AND to narrow the search to items where both topics occur in the same article
    • See "A note about AND / OR" at the end of this page for details about these connecting words

Medline two terms to combine with AND


  • 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, last 10 years, and click 'Search' to apply these limits
  • The "Additional Limits" have detailed options such as age groups, publication types (Clinical Trials, Systematic Reviews etc).  These are very useful for more detailed projects

Limits options


  • 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

Medline search items view      


  • 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
    • This will search for any words beginning with the letters to the left and retrieves more results
      • For example: child* will search for child, children, childhood and so on
      • 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 this example, child* has been included as a freetext search line, then combined with the subject heading search lines for 'Blood transfusion', 'Hemophilia A': using the connector AND

Medline combined searches


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

MeSH term

Blood transfusion MeSH subject tree


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, about freetext keyword searching.  

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.

Keyword search for treat* or therap* or cure or heal


Watch the above Panopto video from Academic Skills Centre (includes sub-titles).  This uses the older, 'classic' interface for Medline, but the principles are the same.


  • 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).  These are very useful for more detailed projects

Medline limits options

Panopto videos from Academic Skills Centre, UoB, on saving or exporting results from a Medline search. 

Exporting results from Medline

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, or a numbered range (eg 1-50).

  • Then choose Export
  • Export include: 'RIS' - a downloadable file to then upload into referencing software such as EndNote Online; other options are available 
  • See also the EndNote Online guide page "Adding References from Ovid databases"

Selecting results for export in Medline

Panopto video from Academic Skills Centre, UoB, on saving a Medline search history. 

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

Ovid personal account screen


Medline search name


Medline saved search to run

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