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Research Guides@Tufts

How to Use Ovid Medline

Search Ovid

Search Mode: Basic (natural language)
Advanced (syntax)

Map Term to Subject Heading

Map Term to Subject Heading is usually checked by default.  Once you click Search, a MeSH tree will be revealed to you based on the context of your search term in relation to broader and more specific headings to help you narrow down your topic. 

From there you have the option to:

Explode: retrieves citations using the selected term and all of its more specific terms.

Focus:  limits your seach to those documents in which your subject heading is considered to be the major point of the article.

Choose Subheadings:  Choose Include All Subheadings if you want all articles on your topic.  Otherwise,  you can choose limits and select the appropriate subheadings.

Ovid's Advanced Search Mode

To execute a search:


   Select a search type. In this example, Keyword is used. Advanced Searching mode in Ovid allows for    the following  search types: Keyword, Author, Title, Journal, Book Name


   Type a term or phrase, depending on the search type you selected

   Click the Search button


  • Basic Search uses Ovid's natural language searching algorithm. If you use this natural language search, it's a good idea to check the box labeled Include Related Terms to be sure that synonyms are included in your search. If you want more control and accuracy, you should use the Advanced Ovid Search tab.
  • With Find Citation you can enter information about a specific reference (e.g. author name, journal title, etc.) to retrieve that reference. You'll find this similar in functionality to PubMed Single Citation Manager.
  • Search Tools provides a number of tools to help you create better searches.
  • Search Fields provides you with the option to search within specific fields of a database record (e.g. author name, institution name, gene symbol, grant number, etc.).
  • Advanced Search is the default search. The Advanced Search allows you to construct more precise searches by using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and subheadings. 
  • Multi-Field Search enables you to search multiple fields at one time.


What's in a Search Query?

This research guide deals only with Ovid's Advanced Search mode.  While its Basic Search runs on Natural Language Processing, Advanced Search uses command-line syntax and notation.  These include the Boolean operators (see Venn diagrams of them below), truncation with wildcards (*), as well as limits (see Search History).

When combined with your search terms, field notations and the Boolean, Wildcard and Truncation commands, you can structure a query that is easily replicable and editable.

For a more detailed description of advanced searching techniques in Ovid, including Command Line Syntax, refer to Ovid's Resource Center.  While use of Command Line Syntax is not absolutely required by Ovid's Advanced Search, it could be worthwhile to learn shortcut commands to bypass use of the icon bar.

Venn diagrams of Boolean Combos

Ovid Operators

Ovid processes search queries from left to right.  To specify precedence, enclose terms and operators in parentheses within your search statement.  You can nest and combine a search statement with the following Boolean operators:


 retrieves any or all of the search terms [Example: heart attack OR myocardial infarction]

AND  retrieves records with only both search terms [Example: blood pressure AND stroke]
NOT excludes second term, only retrieves records for first [Example: health reform NOT health policy]
ADJ searches for words adjacent to each other and only separated by a single space [Example: blood pressure or bloodADJpressure]
ADJn searches for terms that are a specified number (n) spaces away from each other [Example: physician adj5 relationship]
FREQ specify a term's threshold of occurrence in the records retrieved.  The syntax for this is "x.fd./freq=n" where fd is the 2 letter field name, and n is the frequency. [Example: ]

Truncation and Wildcards

   Use * , $ , or : at the end of a word, or part    of a    word to retrieve unlimited suffix    variations    [Example: disease* for    diseases, diseased, etc]
   Use # on the inside or at the end of a word    to replace exactly one character [Example:    wom#n]
   Use ? inside or at the end of a word to    replace    zero or one character [Example:    robot?]

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