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Systematic reviews, scoping reviews and other evidence syntheses

Overview of evidence synthesis reviews and relevant strategies, tools and resources.

Documenting your search

Since your search strategy is a significant element of the methods for conducting a systematic review or other evidence synthesis review, you will need to:

  • document your search and record:
    • search terms used
    • search operators and syntax
    • number of citations retrieved from each database/information source
  • report your search strategy in the methods section of any published review

Reporting search methods

The search methods section of systematic reviews and meta-analyses should describe the database searches in detail, including:

  • Databases and respective platforms searched (e.g. PubMed, Ovid MEDLINE, Wiley Cochrane etc.) as well as:
    • Coverage dates for each database (e.g. 1946 to present)
    • Segments of databases searched, if appropriate (e.g. Ovid Embase Classic+Embase from 1947 to present, Ovid Embase from 1980 to present, Ovid MEDLINE including epub ahead of print, in-process & other non-indexed citations from 1946 to present)
      • Date(s) the databases were last searched
  • Any language or date limits applied to the database searches
  • PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) suggests that reviewers present the full electronic search strategy for at least one database as an appendix such that it could be repeated

The search methods should also describe in detail:

  • Other resources searched (trials registries etc.)
  • Other methods of searching utilized (hand-searching, cited reference searching, contacting authors to identify additional studies etc.)

PRISMA provides an example of how to document information sources and search strategies here on pages W-72 - W-73 (items 7 and 8)

Also refer to the Cochrane Handbook: Section 6.6.2 Documenting and Reporting the Search Process

PRISMA Flow Diagram