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Astronomy: Failed Searches

Failed Searches

Studies of medical information searches have identified common mistakes made. 

Questions to Ask Yourself After a Failed Search
Did you misspell any words?
Are there too many ANDs? (They reduce results.)
Unnecessary addition of author’s name?
Punctuation? Used or not used?
Truncation error? Wrong symbol? Wrong placement?
Incorrect phrasing of title?
Did you misremember the title?
Inappropriate use of specialty headings?
Incorrect use of subheadings?
Not using related terms to catch missed concepts (text words or MeSH terms)?
Low-frequency terms?
Using general terms instead of subheadings?
Accidentally searching title instead of keyword?
Incorrectly understanding system defaults (default OR, for example)?
Incorrectly understanding search hierarchy in PubMed?
Concepts searched not in document?
Using synonyms or acronyms?


Most Common OVID MEDLINE Searching Mistakes

Professor Katherine Schilling of IUPUI has researched medical students search strategies and found that these were the 10 most common research mistakes in Ovid MEDLINE.

Listed in order by when they occur in the search process:

1. Failure to properly translate research/clinical question into a searchable strategy
2. Selecting the wrong database (i.e., selecting a 
Full Text database rather than the larger MEDLINE database)
3. Approaching a MEDLINE search like it's Google or Yahoo
4. Failing to identify the appropriate MeSH  term(s)
5. Failing to explode a MeSH term
6. Misunderstanding the relationship between "explode" and "focus"
7. Misapplication of subheadings to a MeSH term (i.e., applying 1+ specific subheadings when applying ANY would be a more effective strategy)
8. Misuse of the Boolean AND and OR
9. Misapplication of limiters (i.e., usually applying too many of the wrong limiters; entering check tags (limiters) as subject headings; applying inappropriately to "full text"
10. Failure to interpret search results and modify strategy appropriately

Subject Guide

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