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Systematic Reviews: Recording your search strategy

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The Cochrane Handbook

The Cochrane Handbook highlights the importance of documenting and recording the search process: 

"The search process (including the sources searched, when, by whom, and using which terms) needs to be documented in enough detail throughout the process to ensure that it can be reported correctly in the review, to the extent that all the searches of all the databases are reproducible."  

The Cochrane Handbook, Part 2, Chapter 4


PRISMA provides a structured approach to reporting systematic reviews (and meta-analyses). There is a checklist outlining the sections to include in your report, and a flowchart to record the number of records retained at each step in the review process.

Recording Your Search

  • Keep a record of the databases searched, including database provider and the platform (eg. Ebsco CINAHL, Ebsco Medline, Ovid Medline) and the date the search was conducted
  • Register with the databases (sign up for an account) so that you can save your search strategy.  You may need to copy and paste your search strategy exactly as it was run and include it in full in an appendix
  • See the Prisma diagram and checklist (left) for further information about what to include in your write up.