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PUBH 609 Public Health Research and Evaluation

This guide offers a collection of sources and services to support public and community health-related research.

A Systematic Reviews is ....

 A Systematic Review (SR) is "a literature review focused on a specific research question, which uses explicit methods to minimize bias in the identification, appraisal, selection, and synthesis of all the high-quality evidence pertinent to the question." Source: Online Dictionary of Library and Information Science

Note: "Statistical methods to synthesize the results of the included studies (meta-analysis) may or may not be used in the process." (EFSA, 2015). In other words, not all systematic reviews have meta-analysis. Systematic reviews are not all created equal.

A Systematic Review includes

  • A clearly stated set of objectives
  • An explicit, reproducible methodology
  • A systematic search
  • An assessment of the validity of the included studies
  • A systematic presentation of the results 


Systematic Reviews and Other Evidence-Based Resources

Tools and Standards for Assessing Reviews and Other Studies

PubMed: Strategies to Limiting to Evidence-Based Practice Resources

PubMed -- Clinical Queries
This search filter provides citations to the evidence-based literature in the following five areas:

  • Therapy - information addressing the treatment of disease 
  • Etiology - information addressing causation/harm of disease
  • Diagnosis - information addressing disease diagnosis
  • Prognosis - information addressing disease prognosis
  • Clinical prediction guidelines - data addressing the likelihood of disease presence or absence

PubMed -- Systematic Reviews
This search filter provides citations to the highest levels of evidence including: 

  • Systematic reviews
  • Meta-analyses
  • Reviews of clinical trials.

PubMed -- Focused Topic Searches
This is a directory of pre-built concentrated searches on a variety of different topics.

Searching the Cochrane Library

  • The Cochrane Library is a compilation of five databases designed to provide evidence to help health care providers decide on the best treatment for a condition or disease by identifying all controlled trials of interventions for a particular condition and reviewing the results to see which work best.
  • The most important database is the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR). 
  • The SRs investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, as well as assess the accuracy of a diagnostic test for a given condition in a specific patient group and setting.
Searching Tactics for Cochrane Library:
1.) Use single words or phrases. Be as specific as possible.
For phrases, use quotes (e.g. "post traumatic stress disorder", "child welfare") to ensure that the phrase is searched instead of each word individually.
2.) Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to combine search terms. Capitalize Boolean operators. See refreshers below:
  • OR - use OR for similar words, synonyms, acronyms and variations in spelling or related terms within the same idea or concept.
  • AND - use AND to connect ideas and concepts where you want to see both ideas or concepts.
  • NOT - used to exclude specific words/keywords from the search. Use NOT only when necessary.  All results may not be shown when NOT is used.

3.) "Title Abstract Keyword" Menu box is the default search field tag next to the search box. Consider limiting to the Abstract field only or the Keyword field only to expand your search.

4.) First, try to see ALL results.

  • Refine by Topic (located on the left hand side of the Results page).
  • If there are few results (fewer than 100 or so), go to the "Sort By" menu and select, "Publish Date - New to Old"
  • If there are hundreds of results (unlikely), consider applying the "Search Limits" link beneath the search box(s) on the main search page.
  • BEFORE PRINTING: Review the "Standard View" to  help you decide whether it addresses your assignment. The Summary View may not provide sufficient details.

Takeaways when citing Cochrane reviews in APA Style (6th ed.):

  1. Use the same format as when citing a journal article.
  2. But the year of publication is also the volume number.
  3. The issue number is always required because the journal is not continuously paginated.
  4. Always include the DOI link.
Example of a SR found on the Cochrane Library:
Livingstone, N., Macdonald, G., & Carr, N. (2013). Restorative justice conferencing for reducing recidivism in young offenders (aged 7 to 21). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2019(2), 1-89. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008898.pub2
Note: the SR above has been updated. It was originally published in 2013.