Skip to Main Content

Brown School Library Systematic Review Resources and Services

In this guide, Brown School Library describes our available services and resources for supporting your systematic review work.

Types of Searching

There are four kinds of searching that go into a systematic review.

Preliminary Search – This is the kind of searching most people do when they start thinking about conducting a systematic review. The results from a preliminary search are not exhaustive, and they should not be used as the sole source of data for your systematic review. The goals of the preliminary search include: identifying existing reviews, assessing volume of potentially relevant studies (assume an exhaustive search will identify about 2-3 times the number located in a preliminary search), and locating at least 2-5 example articles that meet your review criteria.

Exhaustive Database and Grey Literature Search – One goal of an exhaustive search is to identify all publications and as much grey literature as possible that meet study requirements. Another goal is to document and report the exhaustive search in such a way that it can be replicated for updates and reproduced by others after publication. For assistance and guidance designing an exhaustive replicable search fill out the Systematic Review Assistance Request Form

Hand Search - Identify grey literature like conference proceedings, posters abstracts, and presented papers not indexed in databases. Sources to hand search include: subject specific professional association websites, major relevant journals, bibliographies of all included studies, and bibliographies of on-topic reviews. It is best for the subject experts to do the hand searching since they are most likely to have access to conference archives on professional society websites. It is important to document all sources searched by hand for reporting and creating the PRISMA Flow Diagram.  (Note: takes a long time to load)

Contact Experts – One goal of contacting experts is to determine if other resources, including papers, were published on the same study. Another goal is to identify unregistered studies with unpublished results or potential results. 

How Do You know You have Designed a Good Search?

PRESS (Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies) is an evidence based guideline for reviewing systematic review search strategies.  We use PRESS to review search strategies for accuracy and errors. 

Helpful Resources

Brown School Systematic Review Service Forms and Instructions