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Embase (English): Search by Word

This LibGuide offers an overview of the various search options of the biomedical database Embase on the Ovid platform.

Why do I need to search by word?

A sensitive search strategy in Embase consists of Emtree terms and searches by word or phrase. By additionally searching for words that appear in title and abstract, your results will include the latest articles and articles on topics that have no suitable Emtree term.

Search fields

You can indicate in which fields (title, author, journal, etc.) you would like to search for a word. Because it is not possible to search the full text articles, the most important fields to search in are: title, abstract and author keywords. These fields contain information on the content of an article.

To search for a word or phrase in a specified field, type in the word or phrase followed by the designated field code.

*Previously the field code .kw. was used. As of 15-09-2021 this has been changed to .kf.
Search field Field code Example
title .ti. influenza.ti.
abstract .ab. influenza.ab.
author keyword* .kf. influenza.kf.


  1. Combine field codes with a comma
    Example: influenza.ti,ab,kf. finds articles with the word influenza in the title, abstract and/or author keywords.
  2. Embase searches phrases by default
    Example: life quality.ti. finds articles with the phrase 'life quality' (words in this exact order) in the title. To find 'quality life', you should add this synonym or use the ADJn operator (See box: Boolean operators).
  3. Looking for articles on a specific drug or medical device?
    Embase has extra field codes for those items, for example .tn. for drug trade name and .dv. for device trade name.

VideoThe description and code of all search fields in Embase can be found in the tab 'Search Fields'. View the Ovid Search Fields Tutorial (3:23) for a demo. Screenshot Search Fields

.mp. field
When you have not specified a field code and 'Map Term to Subject Heading' is not checked, Embase will use the default field code .mp. (multi-purpose).
In Embase .mp. includes: title, abstract, keyword, original title, heading word, floating subheading word, drug trade name, drug manufacturer, device trade name, device manufacturer, candidate term word.


When searching by word, it is important to search with the various synonyms of a concept: singular, plural, British vs. American spelling, other names, etc.

TipIf there is an Emtree term for your topic, you can find suggestions for relevant synonyms in the thesaurus (See page: Emtree > Thesaurus). These are listed under [Used for].

Truncation & wildcards

Some characters have a special function in Embase:

An asterisk * searches for word variations. Embase searches for words starting with the stem of the word followed by 0 to an infinite number of characters. * can only be used at the end of a word. Multiple words with an * can be combined.
Example: gene* finds gene, genes, genetic but also generation; gene* therap* finds gene therapies, and also genetic therapy.

A hash tag # is the wildcard for 1 character. # can be used within a word or at the end of a word.
Example: wom#n finds women and woman; dog# finds dogs, but not dog.

A question mark ? is the wildcard for 0 or 1 character. ? can be used within a word or at the end of a word.
Example: tumo?r finds tumour and tumor; microscop? finds microscope, microscopy, but not microscopes.

How come searching by word alone is not enough?

There is often a discrepancy in how a concept is described by authors and people that search for literature. If you only search by word or phrase, you will run the risk of missing items.

screenshot pollen allergy Emtree vs .ti,ab,kw.




The example above shows that there are 7673 articles with the Emtree term 'pollen allergy', but without the phrase 'pollen allergy' in the title, abstract or author keywords. This set may include relevant articles that you were to miss, if you only search by phrase.