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Systematic Reviews

Specialised advice for planning, researching and writing Systematic Reviews.


Handsearching is a critical part of the review to find materials not found through traditional searches. It is a manual process to examine and identify further relevant studies and includes:

  • Perusing the pages of key journals, conferences and other sources
  • Checking reference lists of identified articles and documents

Why is it important?

  • Not all databases index items comprehensively. This may be because not all information is included in records or because not all content of the journal is indexed.
  • Searches may not be comprehensive enough or may not include relevant key terms.
  • Authors may not have described articles accurately with key terms used.
  • Allows more detailed scanning of key journals and other sources.
  • Some sources are not included in traditional databases.
  • Ensures that relevant studies are not overlooked.

For more information about handsearching see:

Checking references

Cited reference searching is part of the handsearching process

  • Check the reference lists of useful articles to find older articles relating to the topic.
  • Check citing articles to find more recent articles that cite useful articles to find more recent sources.

Databases for cited reference searching that have both these features include:

Finding review articles on similar topics will also be useful to find more relevant authors and papers 

  • Check databases for limits to restrict results to 'reviews' using limiters such as publication type or document type.
  • Check the Advanced Search screen for limiting options.

Visualization tools for tracking citations and related research

  • Enter details for a paper and these tools will identify references, citations, similar works and researchers.

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