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Systematic and Systematic-like Reviews

Test and review your search

Back in Section 3.1, the importance of  putting together a "gold set" of a few key articles before you start your thorough searching was mentioned. These key articles can now be used to test your search strategy. 

Did these articles appear in your results?  If not, this may indicate a problem with your strategy.  Check that the articles are published in a journal that's actually indexed by the databases you're searching, and then review your strategy. Have you:

  • Searched the most appropriate databases for your topic?
  • Checked for spelling mistakes or typos?
  • Used a comprehensive list of search terms appropriate to your search framework (eg. PICO)?
  • Used thesaurus terms/subject headings specific to each database?
  • Used search combinations (AND, OR) appropriately?
  • Added any new terms discovered while searching to all database searches?

The PRESS Checklist for reviewing search strategies has been developed by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) and is a handy guide to making sure you haven't overlooked any of these steps.

If you still have trouble finding obvious key articles for your review and/or have concerns that your search strategy is not behaving systematically, now would be a good time to contact your Faculty Librarians for some guidance.

Keeping up to date

If you have saved your searches as suggested at the top of this page, it will be easy to re-run them when you need to update your review.

Some databases also allow you to set an alert for your search strategy so you can be emailed periodically when any new articles are added to the database. Major journals in your field will usually have provision to email tables of contents for each new issue as it's published.

Have a look at the Library's Keep up to date with new resources web pages for some ideas on how to set up Tables of Contents and Search Alerts.

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