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Systematic Reviews

Find Existing Reviews & Protocols

Why Search for Existing Reviews?

Before you start your review, check existing reviews. These reviews:

  • provide examples for how to conduct your own systematic review
    • eligibility criteria you may want to incorporate into your own protocol
    • relevant databases to include in your search strategy
    • relevant search terms you may want to use or adapt (note that if you use part of a search strategy from a published review, this should be cited)
  • give you a means to mine relevant articles from related reviews
  • show you where your review fits into the scholarly conversation and enable you to acknowledge the existence of related reviews in your introduction
    • Is there another systematic review that has already been published on your topic? If so, there may still be a reason for you to write your own, such as
      • The existing systematic review is old, new research has been published, and thus it is in need of updating
      • The quality of the existing systematic review is methodologically suspect. Use a critical appraisal tool such as the JBI "Checklist for Systematic Reviews and Research Syntheses" to evaluate quality
      • The existing systematic review focuses on different outcomes or uses different eligibility criteria than your systematic review will use

Note: You will also need to check the systematic review protocol registries to make sure there isn't a systematic review in progress that is similar to yours.

Where to Find Systematic Reviews

You can search for systematic reviews in PsycINFO in one of two ways.

  1. Limit your search by methodology
  2. Include Systematic Review as a search term. To be thorough, use a search phrase like...“systematic review*” OR "research synthesis" OR "synthesis of research" OR "meta analysis" OR "meta-analysis"

In SocINDEX, you cannot easily limit your searches by methodology, so you'll need to use keyword searches to find review articles. 

Start by adding the keywords for your topic, then add an additional line of terms to capture reviews... “systematic review*” OR "research synthesis" OR "synthesis of research" OR "meta analysis" OR "meta-analysis"

In Education Source and ERIC, you cannot easily limit your searches by methodology, so you'll need to use keyword searches to find review articles. 

Start by adding the keywords for your topic, then add an additional line of terms to capture reviews... “systematic review*” OR "research synthesis" OR "synthesis of research" OR "meta analysis" OR "meta-analysis"

You can search for reviews in Medline in two ways...

1) Under the "Publication Type" limit, select both "Meta analysis" and "Review"

2) Include Systematic Review as a search term. To be thorough, use a search phrase like...“systematic review*” OR "research synthesis" OR "synthesis of research" OR "meta analysis" OR "meta-analysis"

You can search for systematic reviews in CINAHL in one of two ways.

  1. Limit your search by Publication Type; select "Meta analysis," "Meta synthesis" and "Systematic Review"
  2. Include Systematic Review as a search term. To be thorough, use a search phrase like...“systematic review*” OR "research synthesis" OR "synthesis of research" OR "meta analysis" OR "meta-analysis"

Start by entering your search terms in the basic search. On the results page, limit by Article Types with Meta-Analysis and Systematic reviews. Make sure you click to activate the filters after choosing them from and closing the pop-up box.

Click Advanced Search. Type in your search terms, and make sure "Review" is checked.

 

Use the search or advanced search from the top right corner. You can filter results by date, status, language, or topic.

To take advantage of special limiters for Compendex, (or Inspec or GeoRef) --- these three are searched together unless otherwise specified --- the other databases need to be turned off.

However, systematic reviews are not specifically labeled as a document type or as a treatment type in these databases.  That means that you will need to use "systematic review" as part of the search statement to specifically look for that type of review.

For example:  subject/title/abstract seismic and retrofit* and "systematic review*"


Compendex  To limit any subject search to a literature review: 

  • "turn off" Inspec and GeoRef
  • Look for the "Treatment" option --- below the search box --- and select "Literature Review."

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Inspec  To use the option to limit to a "General review,"

  • "turn off Compendex and GeoRef
  • Look under "Treatment" for the "General review" option.

 

GeoRef   There's no special treatment label.

To find systematic reviews in SciFinder, include the phase "systematic review" as part of a RESEARCH TOPIC search.  For example:

systematic reviews of consumer anti-bacterial soaps

 

Web of Science is both a subject index and a citation index.  

 

-As a subject index,

  • there is no pre-set option to limit a topic search to systematic reviews, but you may create a search combining your topic with the phrase, "systematic review."  For example: desalination and sustainable and "systematic review" 
  • for the review literature (that is, for literature review of all types):  

Web of Science lit review

 

-As a citation index,

  • Web of Science can help by helping you find which articles have cited an article you have identified for inclusion in your study.
  • See Finding Citing Papers for details on how to search in this way.

Where to find protocols for Systematic Reviews in progress

Search Tips for Existing Reviews

1) Use broader search terms than you will include in your own search protocol. This will help you find related reviews that may not explicitly match your research question but still be useful. 

2) The term "systematic review" will not always appear in the title or abstract on an article. In some databases, you cannot limit your searches to a systematic review methodology. So, using a search string like the one below helps you catch more potential reviews of interest...

“systematic review*” OR "research synthesis" OR "synthesis of research" OR "meta analysis" OR "meta-analysis"

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