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Systematic Reviews

Documenting the Search

"The search process (including the sources searched, when, by whom, and using which terms) needs to be documented in enough detail throughout the process to ensure that it can be reported correctly in the review, to the extent that all the searches of all the databases are reproducible." (Cochrane Handbook, Section 4.5)

TIP!  Start documenting the search process from day one and continue to the end.

TIP!  Create an account with the databases that you search and save your searches.

You will need to keep track of:

  • Databases searched, including database provider/platform (eg. OVID Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, Web of Science)
  • Date search was conducted
  • Search strategy: subject headings and keywords used, including whether terms were exploded, truncated, and how terms were combined
  • TIP!  Copy and past the search exactly as run and include in full, including numbers of records retrieved
  • Years searched
  • Filters used
  • Number of results retrieved for each search
  • Total number of records
  • Duplicates identified
  • Numbers pre-screening and post-screening  (researcher records the numbers post-screening)

Complete the PRISMA Flow Diagram.

In addition, all searches conducted via handsearching must identify the source (name of journal, conference proceedings, etc), plus the years.

TIP!  Save locally or file print copies of any information found on the internet, such as information about ongoing trials.

A systematic approach to searching: an efficient and complete method to develop literature searches.
Bramer WM, de Jonge GB, Rethlefsen ML, Mast F, Kleijnen J.
J Med Libr Assoc. 2018 Oct;106(4):531-541. doi: 10.5195/jmla.2018.283. Epub 2018 Oct 1.