Using Health and Medical Databases

How to use PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, JBI via Ovid, MIMS Online.

What is the Cochrane Library?

The Cochrane collaboration logoThe Cochrane Library provides access to a collection of databases that contain high-quality, independent evidence to inform health care decision-making. These databases include:

  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR)
  • Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL)
  • Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE - Other reviews)
  • NHS Economic Evaluation Database (EED)
  • Cochrane Methodology Register (CMR)
  • Health Technology Assessment Database (HTA)

The Cochrane Library provides access to various systematic reviews in Cochrane Reviews.

According to Churchill Livingstone's Dictionary of Nursing (2006), a systematic review is defined as "a systematic approach to literature reviews (published and unpublished material) that reduces random errors and bias".

Systematic review. (2006). Churchill Livingstone's Dictionary of Nursing. Retrieved from opens in a new window

Using the Cochrane Library

All residents of Australia can access The Cochrane Library for free, thanks to funding provided by the Australian Government and administered by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

It is published by Wiley Blackwell.

User guide

The Cochrane Library Reference Guide provides step-by-step guidance to using the Cochrane Library, links to virtual webinars, and self-paced online tutorials.

Why use the Cochrane Library?

Cochrane Reviews represent the highest level of evidence on which to base clinical decisions. This evidence is gathered by bringing together the research which looks at the effectiveness of different health care treatments and interventions. Cochrane Reviews attempt to provide answers to the following questions:

  • How do you know if one health care treatment or intervention is any better than another?

  • Will the intervention do more good than harm?

  • How can health professionals and consumers make sense of all the research going on around the world?


The Cochrane Library provides information on diverse topics such as injury prevention for pedestrians and cyclists, St John’s wort for depression, programs to reduce juvenile delinquency, the prevention of jet lag, advice on low-fat diets for obesity, and prayer for the alleviation of ill health.


Terminology relevant to the Cochrane Library

  • Protocol - plan or set of steps to be followed in preparation of a study

  • Systematic Reviews - overviews in clinical medicine which were originally summaries of relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs)

  • Meta-Analyses - systematic reviews which employ a quantitative method to summarize results

Finding Systematic Reviews in Cochrane Library

Cochrane Library provides systematic reviews that are in depth, comprehensive and of a high standard.

Use the advanced search to input your keywords. In your results, reviews are indicated by the 'review icon' at the right of each result.

Alternatively, choose to search the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) by selecting 'Search CDSR' from the Cochrane Reviews tab on the main page of Cochrane Library.

Cochrane library search screen

Tips on finding links to full text

Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews is full text in the Cochrane Library.

Other reviews and abstracts may only provide links.

For example:

A search for "heparin" in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials database found this result:

Low molecular weight heparin versus heparin in the treatment of patients with pulmonary embolism


Click on title for this information about the result. It gives you an abstract.

Record for the heparin article including the abstract


Click on Links.

Part of record for heparin article showing links to full text options

1st - Try clicking on More full text options at CQUniversity Library. This should find the full text if we subscribe to it through one of our databases.

2nd - Try clicking on CrossRef. This will find it using the DOI if available.

3rd - If the options above fail - go to the PubMed record. If an Open Access version is available there will be a link from there. If the PubMed record lists a DOI, but you are off-campus and CrossRef did not find it, try using this URL in front of the DOI to resolve it: