What is a search filter?
A search filter is a defined search strategy designed to find certain types of articles in a particular database. Broadly, search filters are one of two types: methodological or subject-based.
Methodological search filters
Method search filters target certain published studies which use certain designs, for example, randomised controlled trials or systematic reviews. The most common examples of these can be seen on PubMed Clinical Queries, where the options you choose will trigger PubMed to use search filters in the search it runs. Other examples can be found at the InterTasc Search Filter Resource website.
Subject search filters
Subject search filters are far less common and target a particular subject field. The Palliative Care Search Filter was developed to help people find relevant palliative care articles in PubMed. CareSearch has also created the Heart Failure Search Filter, the Lung Cancer Search Filter, the Residential Aged Care Search Filter, the Dementia Search Filter and the Bereavement Search Filter, for Ovid Medline and for PubMed.
Why would I use a search filter rather than write my own search?
Neither search filters nor individual searches are perfect, but search filters are pre-tested for their performance, and usually involve experts and a rigorous methodology to ensure performance is maximised. They represent a quick and efficient way to search for certain information.