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Systematic Reviews

Identifying Synonyms & Related Terms

It is important not to overlook this stage in the search process. Time spent identifying all possible synonyms and related terms for each of your PICO elements or concepts will ensure that your search retrieves as many relevant records as possible.

  • Think laterally about how others may describe the same concept
  • What terminology is used internationally?
  • Are there spelling differences in UK English and US English words?
  • Are there colloquial terms or phrases used?
  • Check the search terms used in other papers or systematic reviews-other terms may be suggested from these.

It might be useful to check relevant dictionaries, encyclopedias and key texts for alternate terms.

Build a list of each of the search terms you identify. For example, if you were searching for:

Exercise-based rehabilitation for coronary heart disease
Your list of synonyms and related terms might include:

Exercise-Based rehabilitation
exercise therapy
physical education and training
physical training
(also consider specific forms of exercise)
resistance training

Coronary heart disease
coronary heart bypass
myocardial ischemia
myocardial infarction
coronary disease
coronary thrombosis
coronary artery disease