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Cochrane Library

A guide to searching and using the Cochrane Library

Textword searching

A textword search, sometimes called a keyword search, will find articles that contain the words or phrases you type into the search box somewhere in the database record. To carry out a comprehensive search we recommend that you do a textword search and also a thesaurus search for each concept.

How to enter a textword search

First identify your target concepts. For example, if you are looking for information on "the use of antibiotics to treat sore throat in infants", your search concepts would be antibiotics, sore throat. Search for one concept at a time.

  • Go to Advanced search and click the Search Manager tab.
  • Click the 'S' dropdown menu to open the textword search box.
  • Use the dropdown menu to choose where to search (the default option is Title,Abstract,Keyword).
  • Type in words or phrases for your first concept - antibiotics.
  • Click 'Add/edit search line' to run the search.
  • To view the results for any search step, click on the blue box on the right, which shows the number of search results returned for that step.
  • Follow the steps above for each search concept.

Screenshot of the Cochrane textword search options

Tips for textword searching:

Phrases: if you type two words next to each other, they will be searched using the AND connector. E.g. sore throat will retrieve records which contain the word sore and the word throat but not necessarily next to each other. If you wish to search for words as a phrase you need to enclose them in quote marks, e.g. "sore throat”.

Truncation / Wildcards: you can use * to search for one or more characters or ? for zero or one characters. You cannot use a wildcard inside a "phrase search", instead you should use a proximity command (see below). Wildcards can be added:

  • to the right of a term, with a root of at least 3 characters - e.g. antibiotic* to find antibiotic, antibiotics, etc.
  • to the left of a term - e.g. *glycemia to find hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.
  • inside a word - e.g. leuk*mia to find leukemia or leukaemia.

Brackets: if you are using AND / OR / NOT commands in your search, you should use brackets to group terms together. This ensures the system will search for them in the order you require - e.g. (kidney OR renal) AND (dialysis). If you do not use brackets, the system will process the search using its own order of priority: first NOT commands, then AND commands, finally OR commands.

Proximity searching: 

  • Use NEAR to find terms within 6 words of each other, in any order. E.g. typing sore* NEAR throat will find sore throat or throat soreness, etc.
  • Use NEAR/X to specify how close together the terms must be. It finds the first term within X words of the second term, and in any order. X is the maximum number of words in between. E.g. "sore throat" NEAR/4 antibiotics will find results where the phrase sore throat appears no more than 4 words away from the word antibiotics.
  • Use NEXT to find words next to each other, in the order specified. This is useful if you need to search for a phrase containing wildcards, e.g. type sore NEXT throat* to find sore throat or sore throats.