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The Cochrane Library is the main product of the Cochrane Collaboration, which is "an international not-for-profit and independent organization, dedicated to making up-to-date, accurate information about the effects of health care readily available".
The Cochrane Library is one of the prime international and independent sources of evidence-based medicine information.
But there are actually several resources in the Cochrane Library, and the two main ones are:
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Cochrane Reviews)
Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Cochrane Central).
Of these, the main one is Cochrane Reviews, as systematic reviews are one of the higher levels of evidence on which clinical decisions are based. Cochrane Reviews are available in full-text.
Other resources and features include:
Cochrane Clinical Answers - short, clinically-focussed entry-points to research
Special Collections - curated collections on specific healthcare topics
search access to the Epistemonikos health evidence database.
The Cochrane Library is a subscription resource but the Australian government has an arrangement whereby it is free to any user in Australia. So you will be able to use this evidence-based healthcare resource even after you have finished your studies.
Searching In The Cochrane Library
At the home screen, you can browse the Cochrane Reviews by topic, or you can browse by Review Group, but it's probably best to click on the Advanced Search link at the top right of screen. The Advanced Search screen looks like this:
You can add lines of search if you wish.
The default is to search within Title, Abstract, and Keyboards, but you can change this if you wish.
The default is to a keyword search so if you wish to search for a phrase you need to enclose it in double quotation marks.
You don't need to use truncation because the database does it for you. (When you have run a search you will be told: "Word variations have been searched. This can be switched off in the Limits panel) But you can use the asterisk as a wildcard at the beginning, within, or at the end of a string of letters.
You can do a proximity search: the proximity operator is NEAR/n, where n is the number of words you specify. Eg. "speech pathology" NEAR/4 australia
You can apply various limiters to your search, by clicking on the Search Limits link below the search box(es).
Full-text access to results vary from database to database. The Cochrane Reviews are available in full-text but items in Cochrane Central (that is, articles that report on clinical trials) are citation-only.
The Advanced Search screen has a tab for Send to Search Manager, where you can create and save complex multi-line searches.
You can use the Medical Terms (MeSH) tab to "look up" and search by MeSH terms. MeSH searching can be complex and confusing, and can vary between resources, although the principles are the same. For help with MeSH searching in Cochrane Library, see the Search help button on the Medical Terms (MeSH) tab.