BEME guide no. 3: systematic searching for evidence in medical education--part 2: constructing searches

Med Teach. 2003 Sep;25(5):463-84. doi: 10.1080/01421590310001608667.


Searching for evidence to inform best practice in medical education is a complex undertaking. With very few information sources dedicated to medical education itself, one is forced to consult a wide range of often enormous sources-and these are dedicated to either medicine or education, making a medical education search all the more challenging. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of relevant information sources and methods (including bibliographic databases, grey literature, hand searching and the Internet) and describes when they should be consulted. The process of constructing a search is explained:identifying and combining core concepts, using Boolean algebra and search syntax, limiting results sets, and making best use of databases' controlled vocabularies. This process is illustrated with images from search screens and is followed by numerous examples designed to reinforce skills and concepts covered. The guide has been developed from the ongoing experience gained from the systematic searches conducted for the Best Evidence Medical Education Collaboration, and concludes by looking ahead to initiatives that will shape future searching for medical education evidence.

MeSH terms

  • Abstracting and Indexing
  • Databases, Bibliographic / standards
  • Education, Medical* / standards*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Internet
  • Medical Informatics / education*
  • Subject Headings