Systematic Review

A quick note

Before you undertake your search there are two important pieces of information researchers need to remember.

  1. You need to undertake your search in multiple databases as no one database holds all the published literature available.
  2. Make sure the search strategy is tested and any required changes are made to the strategy before undertaking the final search. Researchers need to record the dates when searches are undertaken, database searched and results as per the PRISMA guidelines.

Citation indexes

Citation indexes are used in the initial planning phase of undertaking a systematic review. You cannot undertake a thorough search using these search engines.

Citation indexes are a good way of locating publications by known authors and viewing reference lists.

Google Scholar - Google Scholar enables broad searching of scholarly literature from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

Web of Science - Provides access to the Web of Science Core Collection (Science Citation Index; Social Sciences Citation Index; Arts & Humanities Citation Index; Conference Proceedings Citation Index; Book Citation Index; Emerging Sources Citation Index) as well as 2 other indexes on the Web of Science platform - the BIOSIS Citation Index and the Zoological Record.

Scopus - A large indexing and abstracting database - providing access to scientific, technical, medical and social sciences literature. It contains records going back to the 1960s, and provides citation links across a wide body of scientific abstracts.

Primary Databases

The primary databases are the key database used for undertaking systematic searching. Which database to use is dependent on the research being undertaken.

Other Health Databases

Hand Searching

Hand searching is the manual method of searching through selected journals or books, page by page, from cover to cover looking for information relevant to the systematic review question being investigated, e.g. checking reference lists of journal articles or book chapters. This technique is also known as snowballing, reference harvesting or pearl growing.

Hand searching can assist researchers:

  • locating citations that have been incorrectly indexed or not indexed at all
  • enable researchers to scan content in high impact journals for relevant studies
  • ensure that relevant studies have not been overlooked or missed when under taking database searching