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Systematic Reviews

Key Databases

Additional Databases

You may need to search additional or different databases, depending on the subject of your systematic review question.

For help deciding which databases are relevant for your question, please consult the Subject Guide for your discipline, or contact the relevant Research or Clinical Librarian for help.

Database Syntax for Systematic Reviews

Databases Ovid (Medline, JBI, Embase, PsycINFO) PubMed Cochrane CINAHL Web of Science Scopus
Controlled vocabulary/Thesaurus MeSH (Medline), Emtree (Embase), PsycINFOThesaurus (PsycINFO). Default is unexploded heading. MeSH. Default is exploded heading. MeSH CINAHL Headings Not available. IndexTerms
Boolean Operators AND, OR and NOT AND, OR and NOT AND, OR and NOT AND, OR and NOT AND, OR and NOT AND, OR and AND NOT
Proximity Operators ADJ Not available. NEAR  N or W NEAR/ W/ or PRE/
Capital letters required for Operators? No Yes No No No No
Truncation $ or * * * * * * or !
Wildcard # or ? Not available. ? or * (within or before a word) ? or # or * (between words) ? or * (within a word) ? or $ or * (within a word)
Phrase Searching Searches as a phrase automatically unless an operator is used. "" but note, this turns off automatic mapping to MeSH terms. "" but cannot use in conjunction with wildcards. "" {} for exact phrase, "" for approximate phrase. ""


Search Operators for Different Databases, a table provided by the University of Tasmania, is a useful resource.

For more information and examples look at the 'Help' section within each database.

Also see Flinders University's guide to translating textword strings:

Search Filters

Search filters are strings of search terms that are used to limit search results. Many databases feature a built-in set of search filters that are commonly used to limit search results by age group, publication type, study type, and more.

When conducting a systematic review, however, there is a possibility that these filters may exclude relevant studies. For this reason, search experts and institutions have developed their own search filters, and many are available online for public use.

Look at the links listed below to see if there is a search filter relevant to you:

Saving Your Search

search icon

Many databases allow you to create a personal account and save your searches for your records or to re-run in the future. Saving your search will also enable you to set up search alerts, to automate the process of re-running your search to check for updates.

Have a look in the Help section of a database to get further information on setting up an account and saving searches.

Keeping Current Alerts

Keep up to date with research in your field by setting up a database search alert.

Citation alerts notifiy you by e-mail whenever a document or author has been cited by a new article.

Many databases offer email alerts for newly published journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers. 

Two main types of journal alerts are:

  • TOC (Table of Contents) service sends you an alert with the TOC when a new issue is published.
  • Search alerts allow you to save your search terms and sends an alert when any new article matches your terms. 

You usually need to create an account  for the database or website where you access the journal to create the alert. Most library databases provide alert services. Check database help pages for more information.

Most publishers and book sellers provide notification and recommendation services for their products and you can sign up for alerts.

The library also provides alerts for new books that have been added to the collection, which is available by RSS feed.

These sites provide information about upcoming conferences and events.

Also check relevant professional association websites for upcoming events, as these organisations often run conferences and workshops.

Journal Table of Contents Alerts

A Journal Table of Contents alert is used to alert you when a new issue of a journal is published. TOC alerts can be set up for email or RSS. It is necessary to register for a Personal Account in each database where you have TOC Alerts.

Keeping Current Tutorials