Research databases often give you the choice of performing a basic or advanced search (note that most library databases accessed via Queen's University Library will default you to the advanced search).
A basic search can be incredibly helpful when looking for a few good articles on a topic or when you're doing some preliminary searching/work. However, a basic search is not recommended if your intention is to perform a comprehensive search. Further, many search topics are complex and it can be to your benefit to use advanced search functionalities. When completing assignments with a literature search component, many instructors want to see evidence of an advanced search that demonstrates a deeper understanding of how databases work and function.
The following page works through search options available on the Ovid platform that is used for a number of databases such as MEDLINE, Embase, PsycInfo, EBM Reviews (i.e. Cochrane Library) etc. The examples and screenshots provided are from Ovid MEDLINE and may function or appear slightly different on other Ovid databases. Similar principles apply to other search platforms.
Using a framework to develop your research question can help to identify the main concepts of your inquiry. Whichever framework you use, try to identify the key/main concepts of your question and the synonyms / related terms that might be used to describe each of those concepts:
Image from UCSF Library: https://guides.ucsf.edu/c.php?g=126216&p=825824
It is not always necessary to include all of your main concepts in the search. For example, in some PICO questions, the outcome is implied and does not need to be included. In other cases, any and all outcomes might of interest and so the search strategy can leave this out to keep it open.
Many databases will allow you to conduct an advanced search. In contrast to conducting a basic search, an advanced search gives the searcher more control and often does not include related terms (instead the searcher will use OR to combine synonyms and related terms). Many databases will also allow you to use advanced search options such as truncating search terms to find alternate word endings (see below).
Most databases will allow you to narrow your search results by applying limits. The options will vary by database but often include limits for publication date, publication types, age groups and language.
In the banner that precedes the search results, you can select citations that you like to email yourself or export to a citation manager. Note, if printing or emailing at least one citation, you can also include the search history.