Searching for literature systematically is grouped into two areas:
While the database search is a fundamental part of the literature search, it is useful to consider the following when undertaking your search:
"...their electronic database search only gave them 22 of their final total of 61 trials." (Knipschild cited by Greenhalgh 2006 p.119)
"...in health service management, my own team recently showed that only around a quarter of relevant, high quality papers were turned up by electronic searching." (Greenhalgh 2006 p.119)
Greenhalgh, T, 2006. How to read a paper: the basics of evidence based medicine. London; BMJ.
This is an outline of how you might undertake the search in a database e.g. Medline:
[Note: this is something of an iterative process and you may go back and forwards between the research topic/keywords/research question to develop all three parts]
Without experience it is not always so easy to tell if a search is likely to be easy or hard (you could say quick (relatively speaking) or time consuming) however it is worth remembering:
For a systematic review your research question will need to be focused, but it will also need to be sensitive. The result is that a focused search may still produce a lot of results, even though you might expect the opposite. Don't be surprised if you need to hand sift, at title and abstract level, several thousand articles.