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Evidence Based Practice: Introduction to Systematic and Scoping Reviews: Finding the Literature

Finding the Literature

Before conducting a comprehensive literature search for a systematic review, a scoping literature search using just one or two databases (such as PubMed or Medline) may provide valuable information about the available literature for a review question. A scoping search may also reveal whether any other systematic reviews have already been undertaken for a review question.

The literature search for a systematic review should:

  • answer a clearly defined clinical question
  • use a search strategy that is comprehensive, explicit and sufficiently detailed that it could reproduced using the same methodology, with exactly the same results, or updated at a later time
  • be performed using all relevant databases
  • include all available research including published research, grey literature and unpublished data


Please note: Care should be taken when using search filters, such as language, date and study design - in order to prevent bias, it is preferable to include all available studies in the initial search results. When appraising your results, the criteria from your review protocol can be used to exclude publications that are not relevant to your systematic review.