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Discover information resources for students and researchers in Nursing

What is Ovid?

Ovid is a platform which features key databases in medicine and health sciences.

Ovid databases


All Ovid databases have the same layout.

Click the  buttons below for more information.



It helps to understand how databases work to construct a successful search strategy.

A keyword search:

  • Looks for exact words in the database record
  • Does not search the full text of the article.

This is not like a google search which will correct your spelling and interpret your search (try to guess what you want).

This means you need to carefully select your words.

Words can have different

1. meanings
(for the word application)

  • mobile phone application
  • application of the ointment
  • job application

2. spelling

fetus VS foetus



physiotherapy (Australia)
physical therapy (US)


Example keyword search

moral distress

  • In Ovid the default search is .mp Multipurpose search
  • This means Ovid will search for exact word/s you type in the title, abstract, and subject headings.


The following record is retrieved as moral distress appears in the database record, in the abstract.

If you had only told Ovid to search in the title, or used the phrase morally distressed the result would not have been found.



In a controlled, line-by-line search each term is on a separate line so we can see results and make amendments if needed. 

Watch this video (3 minutes) for line-by-line searching in Ovid, and how to troubleshoot unexpected results.  


 Instructions from video

Use Advanced search, this is the default for University of Melbourne Ovid.

  1. Type in keyword (or key term)
  2. Press search
  3. Select tick box for each line relating to the same concept.
    For more on identifying concepts see Plan your search.
  4. Press OR button at bottom of search history.
    The combined lines represent your concept. You may want to check results to see they are as expected.
  5. Select tick box for each concept
  6. Press AND button at bottom of search history.

There's no autocorrect, check your spelling!

Make sure spelling is accurate. What you type is exactly what is searched for.

Automatic phrase searching, no "quote marks" needed

Ovid searches 2 words or more as a phrase, meaning they have to appear directly after each other in the order they are typed.

Many other databases require quote marks, for example:

Ovid databases  

Other databases

Use .mp. to tidy your search history


.mp  =  multipurpose

  • default search in Ovid
  • searches through key database record fields: title, author, abstract, subject headings

How to do it

  • Type .mp. directly after your search terms in the box.


It's easier to view your search history without the fields being listed each line.

This is especially useful when you need to copy the search history table, such has for a systematic review

Truncation searches for variations of word endings.

Example truncaton
Use the asterix * directly after the root of the word.

frontline worker* = frontline worker, frontline workers

Useful for 
Makes your search easier to read by saving space.

Don't trucate too far!

Think carefully about possible words you are searching for, this is a common cause of irrelevant results.

pandemic* = pandemic, pandemics

pandem* = pandemic, pandemics, pandemonium

pande* = pandemic, pandemics, pandemonium, pander, pandering

You don't need to use truncation

If truncation is bringing back irrelevant results, you can search for all the variations directly.

  • Line 2: You want the terms nurse or nurses 
  • Line 3: You want the terms nurse, nurses and nursing 
  • Line 4: You want the terms nurse, nurses and nursing but other terms like nursery are causing irrelevant results.

A proximity search checks how closely search terms appear from each other.

Example proximity search
Use adj and number of words you would like in-between the 2 search terms.

adj1 - next to each other, in any order
adj2 - next to each other, in any order, up to one word between
adj3 - next to each other, in any order, up to two words between

frontline ADJ3 workers =
frontline workers, workers on the frontline, frontline healthcare workers

Useful for

  • concepts expressed by multiple phrases
  • focus on a particular meaning of a word when you have irrelevant results.

Watch this video ( 1 minute) on proximity searching in Ovid

Proximity not working as hoped?

If proximity searching is back irrelevant results, you can

  • try and tweak the adjacency numbers
  • change to AND search
  • change to phrases

Subject headings


 Watch this video (4 minutes) on subject headings.

Subject headings are standard descriptions used by databases to help with searching.

  • They help retrieve articles on a topic, even if different words are used in the text.
  • The whole collection of subject headings is called a controlled vocabulary or thesaurus.
  • Controlled vocabularies are an advantage of subject specific databases over general databases or google scholar.
  • All Ovid databases have a controlled vocabulary.

Subject headings are arranged in a hierarchical structure, from the general to the specific.

Here is the hierarchy for the subject heading COVID-19.




Pneumonia, Viral




 Watch this video (3 minutes) on searching using subject headings in Ovid.


How to: Add a subject heading to your search


Find Headings
  • Type your topic in the search box.
  • Select tickbox Map Term to Subject Heading

flue is typed in main search box. Tickbox "map term to subject heading" underneath saerch box is ticked.

Medline uses Medical Subject Headings (MeSH).
This searches through the MeSH thesaurus, then if your search term is not there, through abstracts of articles, retrieving the most common subject headings for your words. Many of these may not be relevant.

Check meaning
  • Check the Scope Note for a definition and more information.

Influenza, human appears in results lists of terms


Add to search
  • Click on the Subject Heading words

This will take you to the tree, showing where your heading sits in the hierarchy.

  • Check if the Subject Heading is available to explode and if the narrower terms are relevant. Click on tickbox

Exploding selects all subject heading underneath the current one, check the video/transcript for more details.

  • If suitable select Subheadings to narrow your search, Click Continue

Subheadings can be added to a headings to narrow the focus, check the video/transcript for more details.



Subject headings are arranged in a hierarchical structure, from the general to the specific.

Search for any relevant subject headings on the following topics:

Medline (MESH)

  • Middle Ear Infection
  • Gastroenteritis

Embase (EMTREE)

  • Anti epileptic drugs
    Compare this with MeSH, in particular the number of specific drugs that appear underneath the subject heading.

PsycInfo (APA Thesaurus)

  • Antidepressant medication
  • Trauma


  • Click the search line where you want to see results
    It will be highlighted in blue.
  • If your search line is not visible you may need to click Expand on the right.
  • Click Display Results
  • Scroll down the screen


  1. You can select individual results to export or save using the tickbox, or nominate a range.
  2. Toggle the amount of information you see for results. From the left: 
    • Title view
    • Citation View
    • Abstract View - recommended for most searches
  3. Select how many results you see on each page.

You can send your searches to others using the 3 buttons on the bottom right of the search history.

  1. Copy Search History Link - this will copy a link you can paste into an email or document. The recipient will need to login to Ovid.
  2. Copy Search History Details - will copy each line of your search history to paste into a document or email.
  3. Email all Search History -  send each line of your search history in an email.


Create account

It's a great idea to create a free Ovid account if you are working on a project or a search you would like to come back to.

  • Click My Account at the top of the page

  • You will be able to save searches and results which you can access by clicking My Workspace

Save search
  • Click Save All to save each line of the search.

View saved searches

  • Click View Saved or My Workspace
  • Select tickbox of saved search
  • Click Run

A handy feature is being able to instantly transfer searches to another Ovid database.

  • Select the Change link next to Resource selected


  • Select the tick box next to the database you would like to move to.
  • Click Run Search. 
    Don't click ok, this will just move you, but not the search.


Add your Subject Headings again as each database is different.

A limit refines your search. It checks your chosen criteria in each result, for example

  • the date published
  • if an article is peer-reviewed
  • if a study was a randomised controlled trial

and excludes results which don't meet the criteria.

The most common limits are available directly under the search box

  • In your search history, select the tick box of the line you want to apply the limits to.
    Click Additional limits for more options
  • Select the limit
  • Press the blue search button


Export to Reference Management Software


  • Open Endnote
  1. Select the references using tick boxes or range.
    • You can export up to 1000 references at a time. 
  2. Select Export.
  3. Select Format >  RIS
  4. Under Fields, select the fields you would like exported.
    • We suggest Complete Reference
  5. Include options:
    • We suggest not ticking either of these, as there are easier ways to access full text
      • External Resolver - takes you to Find it @ Unimelb
      • URL - a url link for Ovid, best if you are already logged into Ovid.
  6. Click Export
    • This downloads a file for Endnote, how it works depends on your computer
      • automatically opens Endnote and imports
      • you click on file to open and import



RIS file export

  1. Select the references using tick boxes or range.
    • You can export up to 1000 references at a time. 
  2. Select Export.
  3. Select Format >  RIS
  4. Under Fields, select the fields you would like exported.
    • We suggest Complete Reference
  5. Include options:
    • We suggest not ticking either of these, as there are easier ways to access full text
      • External Resolver - takes you to Find it @ Unimelb
      • URL - a url link for Ovid, best if you are already logged into Ovid.
  6. Click Export
  • This downloads an RIS file you can import into Zotero



Zotero browser connector

  1. Open Zotero.
  2. If it doesn’t already exist, create the Zotero folder you want to save the search results into
  3. Click on the Zotero connecter (it should appear as a folder, if it is the letter Z it is disabled or you haven't opened Zotero)
    Any references Zotero finds on the page will appear
  4. Select your desired references
  5. Select your desired folder


The RIS export is useful for when you just want large amounts of references in a library.
The connector method is useful for automatically adding fulltext pdfs to your library

Find full text

  • Click link for full text on left hand side of results list, it will appear as either:
    1. wordsFull Text
    2. button 


  • You may
    • be taken immediately to the page
    • wait for a page to load
    • follow prompts

depending on the article.

Tips for hard to find full text

If you are having trouble accessing full text using instructions above try the following.




Online resources

Online resources for Ovid

Ovid library guide

Includes all the instructions on this page as well as additional information and activities.


Canvas skill-building modules

Canvas modules are available on the LMS, you just need to enrol using the links below. They feature instructions and activities to build your skills.

Library Guides

Curated information from University of Melbourne librarians. No login required.

Health Sciences & Medicine:

Ovid Advanced search instructions

Ovid database guides have information on all database fields and advanced search functions.


Library Twitter

Library Instagram

Library Blogs

Library Contacts