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Evidence Synthesis : Planning the Search

Useful resources and tools for planning and conducting systematic reviews

Searching for Published Systematic Reviews

One of the first steps in the research process is searching for published systematic reviews on your topic. You'll want to avoid finding out that there is already a published review on your exact topic after doing all the planning & searching. 

There are a number of good databases to search for published systematic reviews. You'll find a sample of these databases below:  

The Scoping/Exploratory Search

An exploratory search usually involves a keyword search on 1-2 databases. The exploratory search is important for several reasons: 

  • It may give you a general idea of how many articles there are on your topic (and whether your topic/search is viable). 
  • Scanning a few relevant articles should help you develop a list of keywords and subject headings. 
  • You can use the handful of relevant articles to do some quick citation tracking. 

This is a crucial step in the systematic review search process - it would be ill-advised to skip it. 

Choosing Databases

A decent general rule is that you will want to search at least three databases during the systematic review process. Picking the right databases can be tricky, but here are some of our recommendations: 

  • Contact your liaison librarian and ask for advice. Even if your liaison librarian does not have much experience working on systematic reviews, they will have a good understanding of the databases in your field. 
  • Review some (not just one) published systematic reviews in your field/topic and see what databases were used. 

For more information on how to find databases at The University of Alabama Libraries, see the embedded video below: