For Cochrane protocols and reviews

Designing the systematic search strategy for your protocol

For a Cochrane protocol to be acceptable for publication it needs to contain a well thought out, tried and tested and correctly formatted search strategy. As this involves specialist skills, we offer the services of an experienced Information Specialist (IS) in instructing you about where and how to search and how to document the process. Only in cases where authors have previous searching experience or who are in contact with an experienced librarian or information specialist, we allow authors to proceed by themselves.

When you have defined your inclusion criteria, get in touch with our Managing Editor to set up contact with our IS. This is what you need to do to help an IS help you:

1) Read through the relevant section in the Cochrane Handbook (Part 2, Chapter 6: Searching for studies) to understand the process of systematic searching.
2) Operationalise your inclusion criteria into search terms (i.e. words you think should appear in the text of articles that would answer your research question). Use a Thesaurus to generate synonyms of the above and send all of this to the IS.
3) If you already have articles that you think match your inclusion criteria, send their PDFs to the IS.

What follows is a series of test runs and discussions between you and the TSC that culminate in a search strategy for one electronic database (usually PubMed) to be published in your protocol.

The next stage begins after the protocol and its constituent search strategy has been approved for publication. Then begins adapting and running the search in all the databases you listed in your protocol. Because of limited resources, we can do this in PubMed, SCOPUS, CENTRAL and PsycINFO or OSH Update if deemed relevant. NB. We do NOT have access to EMBASE! If you want more databases searched you have to organise the adaptation of the search strategy and running it for each of them yourself. Please be especially careful in how you document the whole process (read Cochrane Handbook Chapter 6.6 Documenting and reporting the search process).