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University of Wollongong Australia

Systematic Review

How the Library can help when you're conducting a systematic review

Search tips for systematic reviews

Searching is a critical part of conducting the systematic review. Errors in the search process may result in a biased or incomplete evidence base.

Systematic review searches need to maximise recall and effectively deal with many potentially biasing factors. (Source: McGown, 2005, p.75)

Some suggestions:

  1. Check the search strategies used in other systematic reviews for tips on terms and combinations to use.
  2. Look for pre-tested search filters developed by several groups.
  3. Once you've found some useful research, use these as a test pool. Make sure these key papers are coming up in your search results as a way of testing your search strategies.
  4. Check which keywords authors and databases use to describe articles that are relevant to you.
  5. Take advantage of controlled vocabularies offered by particular databases, such as MeSH headings.

Searching is not an exact science. You may need to try quite a few different search terms in multiple databases before you find a search strategy that can be replicated across your selected databases.

For more help:

Consult the below resources for help with searching. For further support contact the Library.

Higher Degree Research students and staff can book a one-hour consultation with a Librarian to be held in person, by phone, or online video conference.