Beyond making sure you have searched the key resources, you need to be aware of some of the most common searching mistakes. Here are a few to note, along with tips for improving your results:
Not using the thesaurus terms or subject headings when searching for primary literature.
There are four key databases for finding primary studies on behavioral health topics that use "controlled vocabularies"- Medline, PsycInfo, CINAHL and Embase. If you do not use these standardized terms, you will either miss relevant articles or retrieve lots of "false drops." Because different information companies offer access to these databases, exactly how you access the thesaurus terms and include them in your search strategy varies. Review the video clips on searching PubMed and PsycInfo in Part IV of this tutorial for examples of how to find and use thesaurus terms.
Using too many search terms
It may be tempting to use all four of the elements of your "PICO" question when you do your search. The best approach, however, is to start by focusing on two or three points so your initial search is not too restrictive. You can always add additional concepts or apply "limits" (such as an age range) to your search strategy if you get too many results.
Using the wrong Boolean operator
Boolean operators seem simple enough. However, in the midst of trying to master different search tools, it is easy to loose sight of how and when to use AND or when it is appropriate to use OR. Review the information on Boolean operators in Part IV of the tutorial if you do experience this problem.
If you need additional help, see this tutorial on Boolean operators from the New York University Libraries.