Searching is a cyclical process of trial and error, and you will already have done some exploratory searching before you get to this point in the review process. During protocol development, you will have identified relevant databases, search terms, and studies. These will help you build your systematic search strategy that you will report out in your methods section. The more detailed and transparent you are about this process, the better -- so it helps to keep track along the way.
Don't forget -- Your librarians are here to help! We recommend that you schedule an appointment with a librarian to discuss your search strategy before finalizing the search for your review.
Test your search methods with articles you know should match. Simply add the article title to the last bar of your search and run it again. If that article doesn't appear, find it in the database. Then look over the words in the abstract and subject terms to determine why you didn't find it. Adjust your search accordingly.
Use the Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies (PRESS) Checklist as a way to review your final search strategy before you conduct your final searches. Often, scholars will go through the PRESS Checklist with a librarian or information professional, as well.
Document your search. Take advantage of database features to save searches. Keep a record of all your final searches. Consider keeping a PRISMA flow diagram of your work (required by most Systematic Review guidelines).
Keyword Searching Tips: For a systematic review, you want to find all possible versions of your search terms to make sure you don't miss anything. Beyond scouring existing reviews and encyclopedia articles, you also want to make sure you find the appropriate controlled vocabulary for your concepts.
In PubMed, MEDLINE, CINAHL, and other medical databases, search for the appropriate MeSH Terms (Medical Subject Heading Terms). In other databases, you can check to see if there is a thesaurus for your chosen database(s).
This guide was adapted from Systematic Reviews by University of Texas Libraries (https://guides.lib.utexas.edu/systematicreviews) which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.