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Systematic Reviews: Report search results

Overview of systematic review methodology and key strategies for searching and reporting to the Cochrane Collaboration's Gold Standard

Heading: Report search results

Capture your search

PRISMA 2020 specifies the following as essential elements:

  1. Title of the database searched e.g. MEDLINE
  2. Name of the database platform/interface e.g. Ovid (for example, MEDLINE (Ovid), SPORTDiscus (EBSCOhost))
  3. Database date range - how many years the database covers (where stated) e.g. 1946 to present
  4. Date database last searched or consulted
  5. Years covered by the search - specify if any date limits were applied
  6. Complete search strategy (including all search terms and any limits applied)


'Review authors are expected to include a PRISMA-type flow diagram demonstrating the flow of studies throughout the selection process (Page et al 2021a)' -- Chapter III 'Reporting the review', Section III.3.4.1, Cochrane Handbook 2022

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) are reporting guidelines for systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Often journals will ask your to report your systematic review results using PRISMA or another relevant reporting guideline. Find out more:

PRISMA 2020 resources


For information only. PRISMA 2009 has been superseded by PRISMA 2020. Reviewers are now expected to use PRIMSA 2020 standards. 

Select the diagram below to see an example of a published PRISMA 2020 flow diagram, taken from:

Example of PRISMA 2020 flow diagram


Guidelines and standards

‘Specify all databases, registers, websites, organisations, reference lists, and other sources searched or consulted to identify studies. Specify the date when each source was last searched or consulted.’ p.5

‘Present the full search strategies for all databases, registers, and websites, including any filters and limits used.’ p. 6

‘Describe the results of the search and selection process, from the number of records identified in the search to the number of studies included in the review, ideally using a flow diagram.’  p. 18

- PRISMA 2020 Explanation and Elaboration 

Other standards

Other reporting guidelines

There are several reporting guidelines available, including Consort, Moose, and Strobe.