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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

Search Tips for Finding 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 questions but will still be useful.
  2. The term "systematic review" will not always appear in the title or abstract of an article. 
  3. In some databases you can limit the article search results to those using the systematic review methodology.  Look for publication type filters or methodology filters on the search page or the results page.  Relevant publication types include systematic reviews, meta analysis, meta synthesis.
  4. Use a search string like the following if the database does not have a way to limit to these types of publications.  It also might help you catch additional reviews of interest even in a database that has publication type filters: "systematic review" OR "research synthesis" OR "synthesis of research" OR "meta analysis" OR meta-analysis

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 "Systematic Review" (Image from EBSCO Medline)

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"  (Image from Clarivate Medline)

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 box. Open the "Additional Filters" pop-up window; select "Systematic Reviews" and "Meta-Analysis." After you save (i.e., click on "Show") and close the pop-up box, check the boxes next to these two article types to activate the filters on the results page.

Note: the chosen filters will stay activated for your next searches until you click on "Clear all."

PubMed - Article type filters - Systematic Review and Meta Analysis

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

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