Yes, Virginia, it is possible to annotate your searches!

My inaugural tip for the Expert Searching blog comes, fittingly, through a chain of colleagues passed down mentor to mentee. I believe this tip originates from the irreplaceable Dean Guistini of HLWiki.
Ovid Medline recently added a feature to add search strategy annotations, but it’s clunky and annoying. To add annotations, you have to click several times, and to top it off, they aren’t even visible while constructing and executing the search. How useless is that?
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Built-in annotations in Ovid Medline
However, there’s a secret nobody has told you: it’s always been possible to add annotations to your searches! Simply add square brackets to the end of any line. Any text inside the square brackets is meant to be read by people only; the computer disregards this content. These in-text annotations are a useful way to document the search process and to see what sets of concepts you are combining.
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In-text annotations in Ovid Medline
Another way to use the square brackets are to add them to a line all by themselves. This helps separate parts of the search very clearly. If you’re testing out lots of different terms and combining concepts all over the place, it’s a good way to look back on your work and see what’s going on.
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Line annotations in Ovid Medline
Why annotate your work?
  • Others will be able to understand your search strategy
  • You will be able to understand your search strategy!
  • It shows your thought process and rationale for making different decisions
  • It makes everyone happy because it doesn’t look like gibberish
That’s it for today; see you all next week!
Amanda
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