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Systematic Reviews: Searching in Bibliographic Databases

An introductory guide to Systematic Reviews

Which Databases to Search?

Broadly speaking, 3 to 4 databases minimum and depending on your discipline area and topic. The aim is to maximise the retrieval of relevant records. Some questions to ask when considering each database include the following:

  • Are the topics in the research question covered?
  • What types of materials are indexed?
  • Is this the only and/or best platform to this database?

The default databases to search based on Cochrane standards are:

  1. Medline (Ovid) or PubMed
  2. Embase (Ovid)
  3. Cochrane Library

Depending on the topic, scope and purpose of the systematic review, include 2-3 additional subject-specific / multidisciplinary databases such as PsycInfo (for psychology related topics), CINAHL (allied health), ERIC (education related), Scopus and Web of Science.

Grey Literature sources are also searched for a comprehensive review. Click on the 'Grey Literature' tab for more information on grey literature sources.

Biomedical Sciences Databases

1) PubMed
Citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites. → Freely available on the Internet

2) Embase (Ovid)
A biomedical and pharmacological database containing citations, abstracts and indexing from biomedical articles in peer-reviewed journals. Embase's strengths lie in the coverage of drug and pharmaceutical research. The journal collection is international in scope with over 7,500 peer-reviewed journals in more than 90 countries. Subject areas covered include drug therapy and research, clinical and experimental medicine, biotechnology and biomedical engineering, health policy and management, psychiatry and mental health; public, occupational and environmental health.

3) Cochrane Library
The Cochrane Library (ISSN 1465-1858) is a collection of databases that contain different types of high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making, and a seventh database that provides information about Cochrane groups. The six databases include the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) and Cochrane Clinical Answers (CCAs)

4) CINAHL
CINAHL is a data resource for nursing and allied health professionals. CINAHL Complete provides quick and easy full-text access to premier nursing journals, evidence-based care sheets, quick lessons and more. Literature coverage includes nursing, biomedicine, health sciences librarianship, alternative/complementary medicine, consumer health and 17 allied health disciplines. In addition, CINAHL provides access to health care books, nursing dissertations, selected conference proceedings, standards of practice, audiovisuals and book chapters. It includes full-text journals, legal cases, clinical innovations, critical paths, research instruments and clinical trials.

5) PsycINFO
Citations and summaries of journal articles, book chapters, books, and technical reports, as well as citations to dissertations, all in the field of psychology and psychological aspects of related disciplines, such as medicine, psychiatry, nursing, sociology, education, pharmacology, physiology, linguistics, anthropology, business and law.

Other Specialty databases

1) ERIC (Education Resources Information Center)
ERIC is the national education information system that provides Americas schools, communities, scholars, and the public with ready access to the most current educational information, including critical research results, evaluation studies, policy papers, exemplary curricular and instructional materials, educational databases, and statistical information.

2) IEEE Xplore
Full-text access to the entire IEEE and IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) collection of journals, magazines, and conference proceedings, plus all active and historical IEEE standards.

3) Scopus
Abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, including scientific journals, books and conference proceedings, covering research topics across all scientific and technical disciplines, ranging from medicine and social sciences to arts and humanities.

4) Web of Science Core Collection
Formerly known as Web of Knowledge, Web of Science is an online scientific citation indexing service that provides a comprehensive citation search. It gives access to multiple databases that reference cross-disciplinary research, which allows for in-depth exploration of specialized sub-fields within an academic or scientific discipline.

Our Library has access to the following indexes:
1. Arts & Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI) --1975-present
2. Book Citation Index– Science (BKCI-S) --2005-2018
3. Book Citation Index– Social Sciences & Humanities (BKCI-SSH) --2005-2018
4. Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) --2005-present
5. Conference Proceedings Citation Index- Science (CPCI-S) --1991-present
6. Conference Proceedings Citation Index- Social Science & Humanities (CPCI-SSH) --1991-present
7. Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED) --1900-present
8. Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) --1900-present

5) NTU Library Full Listing of Databases