UTS Library

91614 Evaluating TCM: Search strategy

In this guide:

Before you search

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. What types of evidence are best for your question?

  2. Do you have any inclusion or exclusion criteria?

  3. Which databases will you search to find evidence? 

  4. Which keywords and subject headings will you use?

  5. How will you store and manage your results?


Types of evidence

We recommend you refer to the hierarchy of evidence when considering relevant evidence for your question.


Inclusion and exclusion criteria

For some researchers, they will have specific things they want to include or possibly exclude from their search.

For example:

  • Peer-reviewed evidence
  • English language
  • Published in the last ten years
  • moxibustion
  • massage



It's recommended to search more than one database to ensure you have found all the available evidence.

Access our list of evidence-based practice databases such as Medline and Natural Medicines.

Keywords and Subject headings

To search effectively, you need to brainstorm all the words and related words that different researchers might have used.

We also recommend using subject headings, which are the words used by the database to group articles on the same topic together. 

If you're not sure do a few test searches in a database like Google Scholar or Medline.

Here's a short video to explain keywords and subject headings:

The PICO table can also help you brainstorm and document keywords and subject headings (MeSH = medical subject headings):

knee osteoarthritisTraditional Chinese MedicineNo treatmentPain relief
osteoarthritis, knee (MeSH)Medicine, Chinese Traditional (MeSH)  pain management (MeSH)
 electroacupuncture (MeSH)  
 acupressure (MeSH)  
 acupuncture therapy (MeSH)  

Download your own PICO table

Storing and managing information

When searching for evidence, you may find lots of articles and it can be difficult to keep track of your findings.

Use referencing software

There are several referencing software tools that can make this easier such as EndNote and RefWorks.

Learn more about referencing tools.

Save your search

Most databases allow you to create your personal account so that you can save your search strategy and results.

Here are the instructions for creating an account in Medline (Ovid).