Presenting a search strategy

Some programs at KI ask that you include your search strategy in your essay, especially if you are conducting a literature review. On this page you will learn more about how to present search strategies. The examples on the page are intended as general support. Follow specific instructions at your programme if there are any.

What should a search strategy presentation contain?

The presentation of the search strategy is typically done in table form.Use one table for each database. Specify search terms, potential use of specific search fields, dates of searches, potential use of any type of filters or limits as well as the number of retrieved documents. 

Often the search strategy will be part of the methods section in your text. In some cases you may have to supplement the search strategy tables with describing text. 

Example of text in the methods section

The searches were conducted during June 2018 in the databases Cinahl, Web of Science and PubMed.

The Mesh terms identified for the Pubmed search were adapted to corresponding terms in Cinahl. Every indiividual search term was supplemented with relevant free text terms. When appropriate, the free text terms have been truncated in order to include alternative word endings.

The search result was limited to articles that were written in English as well as articles published during the last ten years. The full search strategy is included as an appendix. 

The database searches were complemented with manual review of the reference lists of relevant articles, which resulted in a few additional articles included in the study. 

In the tables below we present searches in three different databases. In all databases we have used the topic "Patients' experience of day surgery". 

Example from Cinahl

MH = Exact Subject Heading



Search words Limits (filter, limits, refine) Number of records
 #1 (MH "Ambulatory Surgery") 4,779
 #2 day surgery OR outpatient surgery 21,915
 #3 #1 OR #2 24,192
 #4 (MH "Patient Satisfaction")  31,751
 #5 experience* OR perception* OR perspective* OR view* 400,029
 #6 #4 OR #5 423,007
 #7 (MH "Qualitative Studies+")  96,010
 #8 interview* OR focus group* 123,967
 #9 #7 OR #8 176,718
 #10 #3 AND #6 AND #9 341
 #11 #10

Peer Reviewed
Published Date: 2008-2018 
Narrowed by Language: -English


Example from PubMed



Search words Limits(filter, limits, refine) Number of records
 #1 Ambulatory Surgical Procedures OR day surgery OR outpatient surgery  165,477
 #2 Patient Satisfaction OR experience* OR perception* OR perspective OR view 1,914,604
 #3 Qualitative Research OR interview* OR focus group* 435,017
 #4 #1 AND #2 AND #3 903
 #5 #4 Publication dates: 2008-2018
English language

Example from Web of Science

Web of Science


Search words Limits (filter, limits, refine) Number of records
 #1 TOPIC: ("ambulatory surgery" OR "day surgery" OR "outpatient surgery")   5,830
 #2 TOPIC: ("patient satisfaction" OR experience* OR perception* OR perspective* OR view*)  3,334,801
 #3 TOPIC: (qualitative OR interview* OR "focus group*")  735,303
 #4 #1 AND #2 AND #3 105
 #5 #4 Refined by: LANGUAGES: (ENGLISH) AND PUBLICATION YEARS: (2018 OR 2017 OR 2016 OR 2015 OR 2014 OR 2013 OR 2012 OR 2011 OR 2010 OR 2009 OR 2008) 74

The above tables are examples of how searches can be presented. Presentations can be done in different ways. Follow specific instructions for your course/study program. 

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