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Hardin Library for the Health Sciences

Systematic Reviews: Database Searching

This guide provides resources for finding and writing systematic reviews.

Database Searching

The Institute of Medicine recommends working with a librarian or other information specialist to plan out your search strategy and to peer-review the final strategy used. Typically at least 3 databases are used for a systematic review. A list of most commonly used databases appears on this page, but there may be others to consider depending upon the topic.

Searching for Studies

Pubmed provides access to Medline, which is one of the three Essential sources to search when conducting a systematic review. Pubmed provides access to bibliographic information in Medline and other sources (See the available Help Sheet)

Embase is one of three Essential sources to search when conducting a systematic review. It is a biomedical and pharmaceutical database contains bibliographic records with abstracts from EMBASE (1974-present) and Medline (1966-present) deduplicated and searchable with EMTREE. (See the available Help Sheet)

Cochrane Library includes the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, which is the most comprehensive report of controlled trials. Cochrane Central is considered an Essential source to search when conducting a systematic review. 

CINAHL includes records in nursing and allied health. Depending on the research question, it may be necessary to search CINAHL for your systematic review. (See the available Help Sheet)

PsycINFO covers research in psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and related fields. Depending on the research question, it may be necessary to search PsycINFO for your systematic review. (See the available Help Sheet)

Scopus is a citation index. If you search for a study that you have identified for inclusion in your systematic review, Scopus will identify other articles that have cited your study. Looking through this list, as well as the references cited in your identified study, can help identify additional studies to include. (See available Help Sheet) (Cited Reference Searching).

Web of Science is a citation index. If you search for a study that you have identified for inclusion in your systematic review, Web of Science will identify other articles that have cited your study. Looking through this list, as well as the references cited in your identified study, can help identify additional studies to include. (See available Help Sheet) (Cited Reference Searching).

Advanced searching functions of Google Scholar can be used to search for individual articles, much like a citation index. If you search for a study that you have identified for inclusion in your systematic review, Scopus will identify other articles that have cited your study. This is called a Cited Reference Search. Looking through this list, as well as the references cited in your identified study, can help identify additional studies to include. (Cited Reference Searching)

Documentation

Keeping a record of final search strategies is an essential step. Accurate documentation enables accurate methods description, facilitating transparency and replicability of the search. Most database platforms offer an account feature, allowing the strategies to be saved. In addition, screen shots of the final strategies or exact strategy with date and number of results, may be useful. Completing the PRISMA flow diagram during the search process is also advised. Visit the PRISMA website to access the template.

 

Filters

The use of database limits is generally discouraged because most limits operate based on the indexing applied to individual records and use of them may compromise the sensitivity of the search. Custom search filters (hedges) created and tested for use in systematic reviews may be of value. 

Sites With Filters

Contact us for additional help locating or applying filters that do not use database limits (i.e., do not operate on database indexing).

Articles With Filters

Qualitative Evidence