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Systematic Reviews

This guide lists resources related to conducting a Systematic Review.

Conduct the search

The search process for your systematic review will include both preliminary searches as well as a final comprehensive search.

Preliminary Searches (non-systematic)

Conducting some preliminary, non-systematic searches on your topic will help you to:

  • Identify key terms and synonyms to use in your search
  • Find existing systematic reviews on any component of your topic and review search strategies included in the methods or appendix
  • Locate some likely to be included articles 

Overall Final Comprehensive Search Process (systematic)

When you are ready to conduct your systematic search, consider the following process:

  1. Identify keywords for each concept as well as synonyms/related terms
  2. Discuss databases and resources to search with a librarian (i.e. Medline, CINAHL, Cochrane, etc.)
  3. Run your search in your first database (usually in Ovid Medline) *
  4. Once you are happy with your final search strategy, translate this search strategy to other database(s)
  5. Choose a day to run all of your searches. This helps to reduce bias **
  6. Compile ALL results from all databases searched; export these results into a citation management tool and remove duplicates
  7. Check the reference lists of all included studies; also check whether the included study has been cited using Scopus, Web of Science, or Google Scholar
  8. Determine relevant grey literature sources and search with modified strategies (see the Search for grey literature tab for more information)
  9. Contact experts, including corresponding authors of included studies, to find out about additional or ongoing studies
  10. Hand search additional relevant non-indexed journals or conference proceedings, if appropriate

*If you search in Medline then you do not need to search in PubMed. Recent studies have suggested that there is only a 1% difference in coverage between the two databases.

** It's easiest to create an account for each database and to save the search strategies ahead of time. Make sure to keep a digital copy of the search strategies used in addition to the saved searches. You don't want to lose all of your hard work! These search strategies should later be included as an Appendix in the final paper.

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