Training and support are available in the following ways:
While most of the standard medical, healthcare and interdisciplinary databases are appropriate for use in systematic reviews, Pubmed should be avoided. Pubmed lacks certain search functionality (for example the ability to code for proximity operators), making it different to search consistently across multiple databases. However, the biggest problem is that Pubmed searches are not reproducible and transparent. Pubmed:
'uses machine learning algorithms working behind the scenes which are invisible to the searcher. That means that transparency and reproducibility is no longer possible. Transparency and reproducibility are of key importance in scientific reporting and experiments. Without these present in the search strategy, a systematic review falls at the first hurdle when being critically appraised.
PRISMA-S (link opens in new window) was launched in 2020, outlining all the reporting requirements for literature searching in systematic reviews. Item 8 is: Include the search strategies for each database and information source, copied and pasted exactly as run. Note ‘exactly as run’. This is not possible in PubMed. Medline on the OVID platform (or via EBSCO or other aggregator) is preferred.'
Source: Exploring the Evidence Base (link opens in new window).
The requirements for systematic reviews will mean that your literature search will need to be more complex and thorough than previous literature searching you may have done. You will need to come up with many synonyms for your search terms, and make sure that you are searching in the title, abstract and MeSH term fields of every database you use. Make sure you are using the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT correctly, and make use of other search syntax such as truncation and wildcards to ensure your search is as comprehensive and efficient as possible.
Most systematic review search strategies use PICO to frame their search.
Systematic review search strategies are more complex than those you are perhaps used to — they frequently require tens or even hundreds of lines of search terms, a mixture of MeSH and freetext terms, translating search syntax from one database to another, and use of advanced search syntax such as truncation (using * to truncat* words), proximity (using code to search for words being within a certain number of words adjacent to each other), and wildcards (using ? to replace one letter with another).
This guide by the University of Exeter Library (link opens in new window) gives a detailed explanation of how to 'decode' search strategies in systematic reviews.
Find the material you need at:
These tools will help you improve the quality of your search strategy: