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Systematic and Systematic-like Reviews

Run Your Searches - Searching in databases

Your choice of databases will depend on the subject field and the specific research question.

Search only in the most relevant and comprehensive databases in your field, and use individual databases, rather than packages of databases. It is best practice to use thesaurus terms wherever they are are available, as well as keywords.

See below for suggestions by discipline area. See also the Library's A-Z database list, where you can browse by discipline area.

You need to search in more than one database: three to four are considered necessary for an exhaustive review. 

Allied Health, Medicine, Nursing
Ovid MEDLINE OR PubMed for biomedical and health literature. There’s no need to search both, as they are very similar. MEDLINE is a subscription resource; PubMed is available free.   
CINAHL Plus with Full Text (EBSCOhost) nursing and allied health literature
Emcare (Ovid) nursing and allied health literature
JBI EBP Database (Ovid) resources in evidence-based healthcare, from the Joanna Briggs Institute
OTseeker evidence-based material for occupational therapy
PEDro evidence-based material for physiotherapy
speechBITE evidence-based material for speech pathology
SPORTDiscus with Full Text (EBSCOhost) sports science, physical education, etc.
ERIC (EBSCOhost) the Education Resources Information Center. Also available in ProQuest and on its own website
ProQuest Education Database all levels of education plus special needs education, home schooling, adult education, teacher education 
Business Source Complete (EBSCOhost) management, finance, international business, economics, accounting, marketing, and tourism.
ABI/Inform Collection (ProQuest) business, management, and finance
   Environmental Science
SciTech Premium Collection
applied and natural sciences
BioOne biological, ecological, and environmental sciences.
Psychology and Social Sciences
PsycINFO (Ovid) psychological, social, behavioural and health sciences
SocINDEX with Full Text (EBSCOhost) all aspects of sociology
Sociology Database (ProQuest) sociology and social work

For help with searching in databases, see the Library's Database Help Guide, or contact your Library faculty team.

TIP: The Polyglot Search Translator has been developed by a Librarian at Bond University for health searches. If you plug in a search string from a particular database it will translate the search language into strings for other databases such as Ovid MEDLINE, PubMed, CINAHL, The Cochrane Library, and more.

Note: EBSCOhost databases now have a facility for exporting up to 25,000 citations at once into EndNote. See Exporting large numbers of records from EBSCO databases to EndNote (Word doc).

Other places to search


According to the scope note for the MeSH term, a clinical trial is "a work that reports on the results of a clinical study in which participants are assigned to receive one or more interventions so that researchers can evaluate the interventions on biomedical or health-related outcomes".

You can find clinical trials in databases, but there are also specific resources where you can find clinical trials, in some cases before they are published in journals:


Grey literature is research that has not been published commercially and therefore might not be available in the usual databases and journal collections.

Grey literature include government reports, conference proceedings, theses, policy documents, and clinical trials (as above). Note that grey literature is not necessarily peer-reviewed, and should be evaluated carefully.

For more information, see the Library's Grey Literature guide


Citation databases are multidisciplinary, and their citation searching functions allow for "pearling" - trawling through citations and citing articles to pick up some extra articles that may have been missed in your database searching. The two main citation databases are:


If you are doing a full systematic review your searching might need to be even more thorough, including, for example:

  • Reviewing the contents of the major journals and conference proceedings in your subject area page by page ("hand searching")
  • Contacting authors of key studies, or known experts in the field.

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