Answered By: Marc Forster
Last Updated: 15 Dec 2017     Views: 200

Search concepts are the building blocks of a good literature search.  

Once you have scoped your search and developed your research question (for guidance on this step, see: 'How do I 'scope' my literature search using PICO?' ), next break the question down into its constituent parts, or search concepts.

Simply typing your research question into a search engine or database is likely to miss relevant literature on your topic.  Search tools are very literal, especially in bibliographic databases, and will usually only retrieve items with the exact words you type in.  

To get the best results, break your search question down, identifying the most important ideas in the question.  These are your search concepts. Example: your research question is:

Is there any evidence that screening for open-angle glaucoma is cost-effective?

The concepts contained in this question are highlighted:

Is there any evidence that screening for open-angle glaucoma is cost-effective?

Next identify a list of synonyms for each concept.  Include all synonyms in the search using Boolean operators. See the FAQ below for more details on how to do this: 

What are synonyms and why do I need them for searching databases?

What are Boolean operators and how do they work?