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Evidence-Based Medicine Library Guide

Finding the Evidence in the Practice of Evidence-Based Healthcare

Systematic Reviews

Definition: "The application of strategies that limit bias in the assembly, critical appraisal, and synthesis of all relevant studies on a specific topic. Systematic reviews focus on peer-reviewed publications about a specific health problem and use rigorous, standardized methods for selecting and assessing articles. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is a quantitative summary of the results". (CEBM)

For guidance and resources for doing a systematic review, see the LibGuide, Postgraduate Research in the Health Sciences Library Guide: Systematic Reviews


This free version of Medline, the index to medical and biomedical journals, has an excellent search functionality for filtering to different publication types, such a systematic reviews or meta-analyses. However, note that PubMed uses a broad definition of systematic reviews which includes not only systematic reviews and  meta-analyses but reviews of clinical trials, evidence-based medicine, consensus development conferences, and guidelines.

Basic search: add publication type e.g. systematic reviews to the displayed publication types and filter your search to limit to this publication type.

Clinical queries option: by searching in Clinical Queries you can search on a particlular topic and immediately hone in on systematic reviews and clinical studies.

Cochrane Library

The Cochrane Library contains the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effect (DARE), the Central Register of Clinical Trials (CENTRAL), the Methodology Register, the Health Technology Assessment Database, and the NHS Economic Evaluation Database. The Database of Systematic Reviews consists of systematic reviews of primary research in health care and health policy.


Embase (Excerpta Medica) is an important complementary database to Medline particularly strong in the fields of pharmacology, psychiatry, biomedical engineering and forensic science as well as including many citations on the developing world. It is an imporant source of trials and systematic reviews of trials. Embase is not available at UCT. However, the database, Scopus, includes most of the citations that appear in Embase but without the same search functionality of Embase. In addition to providing the contents of Medline and Embase, Scopus is also a citation index. To exclude Medline records from your search results, include the following in your search on the Advanced Search page:  AND NOT INDEX(medline)


There are a number of subject-specific databases available via  EbscoHost. Two of these that are widely used in health sciences are PsychINFO and CINAHL. If searched individually, both databases allow one to filter to systematic reviews in the Advanced Search option.

Evidence-based search engines

ACCESSS Smart Search

ACCESSS is a service to help provide current best evidence for clinical decisions. It conducts searches simultaneously in several evidence-based information services (online evidenced-based texts, evidence-based guidelines and pre-appraised journal publications).


"a collaborative, multilingual database of health evidence. It is the largest source of systematic reviews relevant for health-decision making, and a large source of other types of scientific evidence


PDQ (“pretty darn quick”)-Evidence facilitates rapid access to the best available evidence for decisions about health systems or population health. 

It includes systematic reviews, overviews of reviews, primary studies included in systematic reviews and summaries of that evidence.


Meta-search engine which simultaneously searches original studies, systematic reviews and practice guidelines.

TRIP (Turning Research into Practice) Database  

A free clinical search engine designed to find quick evidence to support practice. It searches sources of systematic reviews, trials, practice guidelines and critically appraised topics and articles.