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Searching Medline via OVID: Medline Home

OVID Searching Tutorials


The Ovid Support & Training Tools has a variety of training resources, including a dedicated Medline online tutorial, click here at Online training sessions

Database syntax for searching

Flinders University library have produced a database syntax guide to assist with the searching of most major databases. 

Database Syntax Guide

Subject Coverage

Medline is a large, multidisciplinary database that includes references from the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, allied health and pre-clinical sciences. 

OVID Medline is the preferred interface for researchers searching the Medline database.

When should I search Medline

  • Doing a literature review as part of postgraduate studies subject.
  • Doing a research project which requires a number of databases to be searched for references
  • If undertaking a Cochrane review, searching Medline is considered mandatory in the systematic review process.

When you have selected OVID Medline, via Cabrini's subscription you will be presented with the following search segment.

OVID MEDLINE(R)ALL 1946 to January 26, 2022

This means you can search Medline records from 1946 to the current day you are accesing OVID Medline AS WELL as in process and non-indexed citations.

Advanced Search

The default search box on the Cabrini Subscription is Advanced Searching.

Advanced Searching is recommended as it provides the user to do more targeted (precise) searching.

This allows searching of keywords and authorised subject headings which are referred to as MESH terms.

MESH terms are the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) thesaurus is a controlled and hierarchically-organized vocabulary produced by the National Library of Medicine. For further information a short tutorial is available via The National Library of Medicine.

On the search box you will notice that the Map to Subject headings box is ticked.  This maps your keywords to authorised subject headings.

Image result for ovid advanced search box

What if my keyword does not have an exact MESH Heading?

All keywords entered may not have a related MESH term as many new studies have not been indexed with an authorised MESH heading i.e ahead of print articles, you will need to include keywords to capture all relevant studies.  Also your topic may include new medical terminology that may yet to have been adopted as a formal MESH heading. You will notice whatever keyword you have typed in the search box will automatically appear at the bottom of the recommended MESH terms.

Image result for mesh terms in advanced ovid searching

It is recommended to watch the following video below which takes the users from entering keywords, mapping to MESH headings to combining search terms and limiting results as well as viewing records and obtaining fulltext articles directly from the record in the OVID database.

Focus on sections 4-7 to see examples of combining keywords and MESH headings together.

Searching Smarter in Medline

Group terms together

It is common for novice searches to type all terms into one box.  Instead type all terms related to your PICO question group by group.  All terms relating to the P(population) of your topic are typed in first, all terms related to your I(Intervention) are typed in next, all terms relating to C(comparison) are next.  Being methodological in your process, will assist you in getting better results and improving your searching expertise.

Search terms line by line, then combine

It is recommended that each term is typed on its own line.  The advantage of this is that OVID allows you to edit your line of searches, so you won't have to re-type your search all over again.  If you are as an example typing American and English spellings you can type these terms in the same line e.g. orthopaedic OR orthopedic 

However if my population was Breast cancer patients, I use a line by line approach and then combine with the boolean operator OR to group all my similar terms together.

1. Breast cancer

2. Breast neoplasms

1 OR 2

Limiting your Search

It is recommended not to limit your search by fulltext, or date of publication until after you have run your initial results.


  • By doing this initially the search can not find key papers which may not be subscribed to you by your affiliated hospital or university. 
  • Key landmark papers may be excluded by date.


Saving your Search Results

Don't reinvent the wheel

For searches that are part of a research project or a topic that you wish to keep updated for your own knowledge, you can save your search by setting up a personal registration account.  Watch the online short tutorial below to set up this process.

Remember you will always be required to login via your OpenAthens Account if you are accessing OVID Medline from offsite, prior to logging into your personal account.

Don't have an Open Athens account?  Register here