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Systematic Reviews: Health Sciences

A guide for those who want to do a Systematic Review search strategy mainly in the health sciences field.


Systematic reviews & meta-analyses are essential to summarize evidence relating to efficacy/safety of health-care interventions accurately and reliably, and poor reporting of SR diminishes their value to clinicians, policy makers...

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews & Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) is a standardized 27-item checklist and a 4-phase flow diagram, essential for transparent reporting and reproducibility.  Two items from PRISMA apply to the search strategy reporting namely:

PRISMA item 7:

“Studies were identified by searching electronic databases, scanning reference lists of articles and consultation with experts in the field and drug companies. . . . No limits were applied for language and foreign papers were translated. This search was applied to Medline (1966-Present), CancerLit (1975-Present), and adapted for Embase (1980- Present), Science Citation Index Expanded (1981-Present) and Pre-Medline electronic databases. Cochrane and DARE (Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness) databases were reviewed. . . . The last search was run on 19 June 2001. In addition, we handsearched contents pages of Journal of Clinical Oncology 2001, European Journal of Cancer 2001 and Bone 2001, together with abstracts printed in these journals 1999-2001. A limited update literature search was performed from 19 June 2001 to 31 December 2003”.

PRISMA Item 8:

In text  “We used the following search terms to search all trials registers and databases: immunoglobulin*; IVIG; sepsis; septic shock; septicaemia; and septicemia . . . ”

In appendix  “Search strategy: MEDLINE (OVID)

  • 01. immunoglobulins/
  • 02. immunoglobulin$.tw.
  • 03.
  • 04. 1 or 2 or 3
  • 05. sepsis/
  • 06.
  • 07. septic shock/
  • 08. septic