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Searching Embase: Search Forms and Wizards

Created by Health Science Librarians

PICO Search Form

The PICO search form is meant to help you create a search based on the PICO framework for evidence-based practice and systematic reviews.

Using the PICO Search Form

Find Best Term

On the left-hand side of the page, type a keyword under ‘Find best term’ and choose the best-fitting term of the terms from the suggested list.

Find best term with PICO Search

You can mouse over any term and click on the “i” for more information, including synonyms and the Dorland’s definition (if applicable). To add the term to the query, click on the plus sign ‘+’ to the right of the term.

Mouse over the "i" for more information on a term

The term will be searched as broadly as possible by default, meaning it will be mapped to Emtree. Narrower terms will also be searched and free text in all fields will be searched.

To only search the index term, search as a major focus or perform an explosion search, click on the orange token to select another search option from the list that appears.

Only search the index term by clicking on the orange token

Main Field Parameters

Alternatively, in the main field, select the parameter you want to fill: Population, Intervention, Comparison, or Outcome. You can type directly in these fields and use the suggested matching terms from Emtree. Note that after you add a term, gray text appears beside it. Click this to add all the term’s synonyms to the search.

Add synonyms to your PICO search

Added synonyms are searched in all fields by default. A search of all fields searches titles, abstracts, author keywords, brand names, manufacturer names, etc. Click on the drop-down arrow or right-click to change the fields where the free-text term is searched.

Click on the down arrow to search synonyms in different fields

Individual synonyms can be selected by clicking the orange radio buttons beside the synonyms in the left-side panel. Terms with the orange radio buttons are Emtree terms. 

Select individual synonyms with the orange radio buttons

Embase automatically adds the OR connector (Boolean operator) between terms within an individual PICO element. The Boolean 'AND' operator will be used to combine search terms/strategies between the different elements.

Click the down arrow beside the OR to change operators


Terms can be added anywhere in the search line. Place the cursor in front or behind any term and begin typing to add a new term or parenthesis.

Place the cursors anywhere in the line

Alternatively, place the cursor at the appropriate position in the search query, and select a term from the Emtree panel on the left-hand side of the page to add the term to that position.

While a search is being built, Embase calculates the number of results and displays the number in the lower right corner of the page. Select ‘Show # results’ to perform the search and view the results.

Embase show results button

PV Wizard (Pharmacovigilance)

The PV Wizard search form is a query builder in Embase that is meant to help you successfully construct pharmacovigilance search strategies.

Using the PV Wizard Search Form

Access the Pharmacovigilance (PV) Wizard search form in Embase. Enter the product name, into the Drug name field. Embase will automatically search for important subheadings along with the drug names you enter in the Drug name field.

Subheadings are Emtree terms that are used to provide additional information about context, such as “adverse drug reaction," “drug interaction” or “drug toxicity”.

Adding a drug name with the Embase PV Wizard

Click on "Next step" in the bottom right corner to view the suggested list of Alternative drug names. You can either add this entire list to your search query or you can edit the list by de-selecting individual alternative drug names or adding missing ones. Emtree will automatically suggest a list of all possible synonyms.

Adding alternative drug names with the PV Wizard

Click on "Next step" to view the Adverse drug reaction window, which provides you with a set of pre-coded search terms describing potential adverse reactions for the drug(s) in your search. You may edit this set of terms by clicking inside of the query box and making edits as necessary. 

Editing adverse drug reactions with PV Wizard

Click on "Next step" to add special situation terms from a pre-developed list. You may edit this set of terms by clicking inside of the query box and making edits as necessary.

Editing special situations with PV Wizard

Click on "Next step" to go to the optional field where you can include human limit search terms. In this field, you can also narrow your search to a particular time frame.

Adding human limit search terms with PV Wizard

Select ‘Show # results’ in the bottom right corner to perform the search and view the results.

Medical Device Wizard

The Medical Device Wizard is a stepwise framework for building complex medical device post-market surveillance (PMS) queries. 

Using the Medical Device Wizard

Select the device term

Click "add device name" to add a device term

When you add a device name to your query, Embase will display the Emtree for that device. Choose the best fitting term from the Emtree for your search. 

Choose the best device term from Emtree

Select the "+" sign to add synonyms to the device name you have chosen for your query. This will pull up a new window in which you can select and deselect the synonyms you would like to use. 

Click the "+" sign to add synonyms to your device term

Click on the orange bullets to select and deselect the device synonyms you would like to add to your query. 

Click the orange bullets to select and deselect synonyms

Next, you may add any potential adverse effects for the medical device you are searching for. You have two options here: "Add/Edit default adverse effects syntax" and "Add # device specific adverse effect terms." 

Add default and specific adverse effects to your query

Click "Add/Edit default adverse effects syntax" to add or edit general device adverse effects. Embase automatically suggests terms to add to your query. You may edit this strategy by clicking into the query snippet box. To add this snippet to your full query, click "Add query snippet" at the bottom of the window. 

Click "add query snippet" to add general adverse effects

Click on "Add # device specific adverse effect terms" to add specific device adverse effects. You may select and deselect suggested terms by clicking on the orange bullets. You may add additional specific adverse effects by clicking on the "+" sign in the bottom right corner of the window. Click the "Add # device specific adverse effect terms" button at the bottom of the window to add the adverse effects to your full query. 

Click the orange bullets to select and deselect specific adverse effects

You can also narrow your search with "Limit options." To add a study limit, click the down arrow and select what kind of study or studies you would like to limit to from the drop-down menu. To add a date limit, select the box beside "Publication years" and use the date slider to insert a date range. Finally, you can also limit by when records were added to Embase by selected the box beside "Records added to Embase" and choosing a date range on the pop-up calendar.   

Add study and date limits to your query with the study drop-down menu and the date slider

When you are finished editing the Medical Device form, click "Show # results" to see your search results or "Display full query" to view your completed search query.

Click "Show # results" to view results or "Display full query" to see your search strategy in full