Literature Searches for Systematic Reviews

Comprehensive literature searches reduce bias by locating and identifying all relevant studies using a wide range of resources and search methods. This extensive searching helps to minimize bias and produce reliable estimates and results. HSLS librarians, as a con-investigator on your systematic review, can develop and perform systematic, comprehensive, transparent and reproducible literature searches.

How can HSLS librarians help?

Assistance in the development phase:

  • Finding any existing systematic reviews on your topic
  • Recommending literature databases and grey literature sources to search
  • Developing search related sections of the protocol
  • Recommendations on citation management

Searching expertise:

  • Constructing the primary search and translating it appropriately for additional databases
  • Using appropriate methodology search filters, preferably validated
  • Saving searches so they can be rerun for systematic review updates

Documentation of Methodology:

Acquiring full text resources:

  • We can advise you on all options for accessing full text items in University of Pittsburgh collections
  • Use HSLS Document Delivery to acquire items not at the University of Pittsburgh

For more information

Working with the HSLS Systematic Review Program

Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews (full report). Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, The National Academy Press.

Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 (updated March 2011). The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from