The Cochrane Handbook, 4.4.4 suggests searches should comprise a combination of subject terms selected from the controlled vocabulary or thesaurus (‘exploded' where appropriate) (see Step 4) with a wide range of free-text terms in order to identify as many relevant records as possible searches.
Determine any alternative terms for the identified key concepts and add them to the Concept Table. It is important to enter as many potential terms as possible. Some authors may refer to the same concept using a different term. Important articles may be missed if not all relevant alternative terms are included in the search.
These free-text terms will be searched as textwords (words in title, abstract, author's keywords).
This Concept Table lists alternative terms for the four concepts in our example. These terms were identified by scanning the titles and abstracts of retrieved articles of an initial basic search.
|Concept 1||Concept 2||Concept 3||Concept 4|
Study designs to be included: RCTs only (see Step 8)
There are various web sites listing search filters for subject searches. You may not want to fully rely on these search strategies, but rather use them as a starting point to gather ideas.
If you use somebody else's search strategy, you should acknowledge this. For example, you could cite it in the methods section, where you broadly describe how you conducted the search. Then add it to the reference list like any other type of reference.