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Systematic Reviews

Key databases

  • PubMed (MEDLINE)
    Start your search here. Check our LibGuide: A roadmap for searching literature in PubMed.
  • Embase
    Approximately 85% overlap with MEDLINE with more second tier European and Asian journals. EMTREE controlled vocabulary can be adapted from MeSH terms. Pharmacological and biomedical literature.
  • Cochrane Library (Includes the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials)
    Cochrane Central contains MEDLINE trials plus many trials from other, non-indexed sources; limited to randomized and non-randomized controlled trials. MeSH for MEDLINE records, but no other controlled vocabulary. Click through to Advanced Search and select Central.

Other relevant literature databases

Besides PubMed, there are a number of other databases where you might find articles related to your topic. If you are conducting a Systematic Review, you must search at least two databases to find all relevant literature on your topic. The list below shows literature databases that can be useful.

Please note: The bulk of these databases are only accessible through the UBVU website. Go to Click in the menu on 'Collections'. Choose: Databases. Choose: ' e-Resources A-Z'. You will then be able to search for one of the following databases.

Web of Science
Database Description
PsycINFO Psychology and psychological aspects of related disciplines, such as psychiatry, medicine, nursing, sociology, pharmacology, education, ...
Cinahl Nursing and allied health disciplines.
SportDiscus Sport, human movement and fitness literature.
Eric Education and related research, documents and articles.
Pedro Physiotherapy Evidence Database; featuring trials, reviews and guidelines.
Web of Science Scientific literature on all topics
e-Resources Medicine

Grey Literature

The term grey literature "is usually understood to mean literature that is not formally published in sources such as books or journal articles" (Lefebvre et al. 2011, section Grey literature may include research reports, conference papers, dissertations and theses, clinical trials, government documents, census data, standards, patents, and other research outputs.

Grey literature has traditionally been considered somewhat difficult to locate, but it is important to consult these unpublished studies to reduce the risk of publication bias in results. Read our LibGuide "Grey literature for health sciences".

Reference: Lefebvre, C., Manheimer, E. and Glanville, J. (2011) 'Searching for studies' in Higgins, J. P. T. and Green, S., eds., Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions [online], Version 5.1.0, available: [accessed 19 Dec 2014].


Handsearching involves the page-by-page examination of relevant journal issues, conference proceedings and other publications for relevant studies. In addition, the checking of reference lists of journal articles and other documents retrieved from a search.

Why is handsearching important?

  1. Locates relevant items poorly indexed or not indexed at all. Some databases do not comprehensively index all content in journal issues, or may not index at all supplements, special issues, or conference abstracts

  2. Allows researchers to scan content quickly for relevant studies from high-impact journals

  3. Ensures that relevant studies are not overlooked. (HLWIKI Canada)

Planning your search

Tip: A roadmap for searching literature in PubMed

Tip: Grey literature for health sciences

Screenshot LG Grey Literature

Tip: use citation tracking

Citation indexes track references authors include in the reference lists of their publications. They provide a means to search for and analyze the literature in a way not possible through simple keyword searching.

  • Web of Science includes the Science Citation Index; Social Sciences Citation Index; Arts & Humanities Citation Index.

  • Coverage of over 10,000 high-impact journals in the sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities, as well as international proceedings coverage for over 120,000 conferences.