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Systematic Reviews in Health

Database Searching

Once the research protocol is completed, Library database searching can begin.  This page provides ideas of sources to search but the actual sources to search will vary according to the subject area of your Systematic Review.  

For many Systematic Reviews, a search of the large citation databases, such as MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, Scopus, and Web of Science, is sufficient.  A more comprehensive Systematic Review will also search other sources, including a search of the Grey Literature.  Note that the Cochrane Handbook, Section 6.2.1  provides guidance on bibliographic databases to search when completing a Systematic Review.1  

Searching Grey Literature

There are many definitions of grey literature, but it is generally understood to mean literature that is not formally published in sources such as books or journal articles. Conference abstracts for example, are a form of grey literature.  See the Library Guide Grey Literature Searching in Health for sources of Grey Literature.

Large Citation Databases to Search

Trials Register Databases to Search

Reporting the Search

Use the PRSMA-S extension for reporting your database search. 


The PRISMA-S extension is available here.


1. Higgins, P.T., & Green, S. (eds.). (2008). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions.  Chichester, England ; Hoboken, NJ : Wiley- Blackwell.  Available: