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Evidence Based Practice

Use this guide to learn about the first four steps of Evidence Based Practice, get help writing your PICO question, and get started on your research.

Getting Started

By now you should have determined the key terms from your PICO question and relevant synonyms. Read the tips below to see best determine how to search each database for those terms.

Boolean Operators

Get a refresher on how to use AND, OR, & NOT in your search strategy.

Subject vs. Keyword

Subject headings describe the content of each item in a database usually using a controlled vocabulary. Use these headings to find relevant items on the same topic.  Searching by subject headings is the most precise way to search article databases.

It is not easy to guess which subject headings are used in a given database. Look for a link titled "headings" or "thesaurus" in each database to search for subject headings.

MeSH stands for Medical Subject Headings and are the subject headings used in PubMed.

Keyword searching is how you typically search web search engines.  Think of important words or phrases and type them in to get results.

Here are some key points about each type of search:

table with the difference between keywords and subject headings


This video will show you how to search for your topic using the MeSH terms you identified previously.



Written tutorial for MeSH

Get Searching!

Take those MeSH terms and synonyms we identified earlier and start searching the databases!

Some tips:

  • Start broad and then narrow your search down.
  • Use the filters to limit your results
  • Be sure to sort by relevance/best match (especially important in PubMed)
  • Don't limit to Full Text right away -- you can request articles we don't own through Document Delivery Services

For advanced users:

Short on time?  Try searching PubMed's Clinical Queries.  This search interface automatically applies optimized filters based on your question's clinical domain.

Video Tutorials

The first video below gives a quick 3-minutes introduction to searching in CINAHL.

The second video is an in-depth PubMed Searching Tutorial for Clinicians. It is about 45 minutes long.

Choose a Database