Skip to main content

How To Conduct A Systematic Review: The Search

The Search

The research team will:

  • Decide whether to search Medline through PubMed or Ebsco
  • Select which journal article databases are relevant to their research topic
  • Identify types of grey literature that are relevant to their topic
  • Decide if hand searching will improve their search strategy and what sources are appropriate for this method

Note: the search should be repeated before the final analysis in order to capture literature that was published since the initial search. This helps to create an up-to-date systematic review that includes the most recent literature available.

Databases To Search

Databases index journals and no single database includes all journals in a particular subject area. PubMed is a common starting point for health sciences reviews. You should use other database in addition to PubMed. Some of the more common databases are listed below.  Check the A-Z list of databases for a complete list.

Grey Literature

The term grey literature refers to all information that isn't commercially published. This can include the following types of documents:

  • Conference proceedings, abstracts, papers, posters, presentations, etc.
  • Clinical trials
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Regulatory documentation
  • Government reports
  • Grant proposals and applications
  • Social media posts

Including grey literature in a systematic review can strengthen the overall product by minimizing publication bias. Although grey literature is rarely peer reviewed, all sources of information should undergo assessment before being included in the final analysis.

  • Use Google to search for conferences and determine if posters and presentations are available.

Please refer to our Grey Literature guide for more information:

Hand Searching

Hand searching refers to reading through specific journal table of contents and selecting articles relevant to the research topic. This is an additional search strategy that can be used to capture literature that may have been missed by searching a journal article database.

Finding Full Journal titles from abbreviated titles

While viewing an abstract in PubMed, hover your mouse over the journal abbreviation to view the full title. 

View Pubmed journal abbreviations

Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Pharmacy
Harlem Campus 230 West 125th Street New York, NY 10027 (212) 851-1199