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Library Subject Guides

Systematic Reviews: Construct a literature search

Saving your search strategies

Document your search strategy and include it in your systematic review so it can be reproduced for verification. For each database you search, record:

– The database name and platform, for example, Medline (Ovid)

– Date search was run

– Full search strategy, including limits used and date range

– Number of studies found

Save the search strategy in each database with the ‘save search’ feature. You may need to rerun the search strategies if the original search was run more than 12 months before completion of the SR.

Templates, like the Search Results Summary (from Cochrane’s EPOC resources  for Authors) are a useful tool to record search strategies.

Search steps

1. Construct a search strategy using the search syntax of each database and include appropriate synonyms (example from Cochrane), and search filters if appropriate and available.

2. Save search strategy (see instructions 'Saving your search' box on left)

3. Run search and adapt syntax to features of each individual database

4. Exports results to a reference manager, for example, EndNote

5. Remove duplicates - see Bramer et al. (2016) for a duplication method using EndNote

6. If you are using screening software, export results to your chosen program, for example, Covidence

Search manuals and checklists

Cochrane Handbook see the chapter, “Searching for and Selecting Studies” (pp. 67–107)

Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews see Chapter 3, “Standards for Finding and Assessing Individual Studies” (pp. 81–153)