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Systematic reviews - searching for literature: What sources do I search?

MySearch versus individual databases

Bournemouth University uses MySearch as a tool to search within lots of different databases simultaneously. It is not a database in its own right. A key question is:

Is MySearch suitable for undertaking a systematic search?

The principle problem with using MySearch is

  1. You are not able to use the subject heading features built in to a number of databases
  2. You are not able to make use of certain limiters within individual databases

For a systematic review in a health subject, you need to be able to use the subject heading features (which means you need to search databases individually). For subject areas outside of health, subject heading search options are less used which means using MySearch will affect your results less, but they are still used by some sources.

Note that when writing up your search you will need to be able to identify which databases you have searched (you cannot just say MySearch). There is an option in MySearch which allows you to highlight and limit to specific resources at which MySearch is looking.

Previously undertaken systematic reviews

It is important to check if a systematic review has been undertaken for your research topic, before you embark on the resarch yourself. It is particularly important to know when it was undertaken (or if it is currently in progress).

  • PROSPERO (International prospective register of systematic reviews)
  • Cochrane library (Contains a library of full text systematic reviews undertaken by Cochrane and also a library (DARE) of abstracts of  reviews undertaken by other organisations)
  • Campbell systematic reviews (A library of systematic reviews from the Campbell Collaboration focusing on social and economic change through policy and practice)

Systematic reviews written up in journals

Not all systematic reviews will be registered centrally and will often just be published in a journal. This means that when you have undertaken  a literature search, you might want to limit your search to systematic reviews. This can be a little difficult as most databases do not have a systematic review filter. There are some 'filters' you can apply to any search yourself, with a little adaption, but they are not a perfect system. The search filter is essentially another line of search you apply and you overlap it with the rest of your search using AND. See 


Lists of resources

  • NICE Evidence (journals and databases) [Students, staff and researchers studying on or supporting NHS-related courses are entitled to a free NHS Open Athens account. This account will provide access to resources subscribed to by the NHS in addition to those provided by BU, e.g. EMBASE.  For more information see the Health library guide


Core resources

To identify the core resources for your topic search, it is best to consult with the librarians who support your faculty. Even for a general field such as health, outside of key resources, there will be a range of sources directed at your particular topic of interest. The subject lists we provide are useful but don't qualify the importance of any given source.


Faculty of Health and Social Sciences library team email -

Faculty of Management library team email -

Faculty of Media & Communication library team email -

Faculty of Science & Technology library team email -