* Remember that the process is iterative. If your search results are not relevant, revise your search! Most searches will require revision.
If your results are off topic:
Try growing pearls: if you found one or two relevant articles, see what subject headings and keywords are being used and add these.
If you have too many results:
Add additional concepts or subject headings (also called controlled vocabulary or controlled terms)and combine with AND (the more concepts you have the more specific your search)
e.g. minor depression AND self care AND written materials.
To get new ideas for subject headings in Ovid-Medline and Cinahl, type in your keywords and make sure the "suggest subject headings" box is ticked. Select from the list of suggested terms (add these one at a time onto a separate line of your search).
Select one or more of the database's limit types
e.g. publication type, language, publication date
Search for words only in a particular field
e.g. self care in title only
If you have too few results
Remove a less important concept (the fewer concepts you have the more sensitive your search)
e.g. minor depression AND self care (remove written materials)
Use a broader subject heading
e.g. depression instead of minor depression
Use truncation to allow the terms to end in various ways
e.g. written material* (this will find both written material AND written materials)
Add synonyms or similar concepts, combining them with OR to generate more results
e.g. minor depression AND self care AND (written materials OR patient education)