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MD Research Project Literature Searching Guide

Searching Medline (Ovid)

Planning a Search

We want to search Medline (Ovid) database for literature on this topic:

The effects of exercise on cognitive decline in ageing

Identify the main components of the question. Break-up the question into related themes or concepts, for example:


physical activity

cognitive decline

cognitive function



The phrase cognitive decline maps to the MeSH term Cognitive Dysfunction. Think of related search terms. But if you need help, use a thesaurus. Medline uses the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) thesaurus to index articles by subject. Try using the MeSH on Demand app to find related subject headings or keywords.

Not all topics have alternative terms. Consider differences in spelling and wording when planning your search.

Search terms can be combined with Boolean operators to build a search strategy. Some search terms can be truncated to expand results.

Sample search strategy:

(exercise or "physical activity") and ("cognitive decline" or "cognitive function*") and (ageing or aging)

See Sample Advanced Searches page to see this search performed on the Medline (Ovid). 

Sample Medline Search

Using Search Fields and Standardised Subject Headings on Medline (Ovid)