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Systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis projects

To Do during this step

  • Identify relevant controlled vocabulary and free-text terms
  • Create and test your search string in your favorite database
  • Ask a peer or librarian to check your search string
  • Translate your search string into your other databases and grey lit sources
  • Record the details of your searches

Equitable Considerations

MeSH terms and Boolean operators play such an important role in searching generally, but even more so when trying to find information related to your intervention research project. Here are some things to consider in search string development and execution:

  • Using keywords that extract specific elements needing investigation in the research
  • Include relevant populations and groups 
  • Do research on synonyms or jargon that could be present about your topic or supporting elements of the topic
  • Check for proper Boolean operator association between words used
  • It is highly recommended to keep documentation of the overall MeSH terms and related terms


Want more information? Check out some of these sources:

Chapter 16: Equity and specific populations

Module 11: Health equity in systematic reviews !!! NOT FREE

Introduction to the new Cochrane Equity Content Strategy


Consolidated criteria for strengthening reporting of health research involving indigenous peoples: the CONSIDER statement:  or "Strengthening the reporting of research that explicitly involves Indigenous Peoples to advance Indigenous health"

Learning Resources

Systematic Searches tutorials by Yale's Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library.

This series provides guidance on the process of constructing a comprehensive search, from initial planning through grey lit and evaluating your search.

Searching School tutorials by Carrie Price

This playlist of very short videos details the nuances of systematic searching based on guidance documents like the PRISMA-S and the PRESS Checklist.

Systematic review searching: an overview of best practices & real world experiences by Rebecca Rishar, MSLS; Senior Medical Librarian, ECRI

A 1-hour comprehensive overview of the systematic review search process, including translating clinical questions into a searchable structure, selecting databases, peer review of search strategy, reporting your search, citation management, and text-mining tools.

Bramer WM, de Jonge GB, Rethlefsen ML, Mast F, Kleijnen J. A systematic approach to searching: an efficient and complete method to develop literature searches. J Med Libr Assoc. 2018;106(4):531-541. doi:10.5195/jmla.2018.283. PMID: 30271302; PMCID: PMC6148622.