Developing an effective search strategy for systematic reviews and other evidence syntheses


Workshop session 2: Wednesday, 14:00-15:30

Workshop category: 

  • Methods for conducting syntheses (including different evidence, searching and information retrieval, statistics, assessing methodological quality)


Date and Location


Wednesday 13 September 2017 - 14:00 to 15:30


Contact persons and facilitators

Contact person:


Carol Lefebvre
Bernadette Coles
Mala Mann
Alison Weightman
Target audience

Target audience: 

Authors of evidence syntheses, researchers and others interested in this topic.

Level of difficulty: 

Type of workshop

Type of workshop : 



Objectives: To provide guidance for researchers and practitioners on constructing an advanced search strategy for a systematic review or other evidence synthesis.

Description: Search strategies for evidence syntheses should aim to be comprehensive, that is, they should aim to identify all relevant research studies for a focused question. This workshop session is aimed primarily at evidence-synthesis researchers and practitioners who are not professional information specialists. Topics to be covered will include:
• The role of the information specialist in supporting evidence syntheses;
• Developing a focused research question;
• Identifying important concepts within the question;
• Translating the question into a search strategy; and,
• Constructing a search strategy using advanced search techniques (the system to be used for demonstrations will be PubMed).

This will include examining the importance of using database thesaurus terms in addition to free-text terms, using Boolean operators (AND, OR and NOT) to combine terms and sets of terms, truncation, and other key features vital for developing an effective search strategy.

The workshop will consist of presentations, demonstrations, group work and discussion. A handout describing a range of widely available databases and tips for translating searches between databases and service providers/search interfaces will also be provided. Participants should bring their own laptops for short exercises.