Evidence-Based Practice: Review your search

Assessing your search results

Consider the following points when reviewing your search results:

  1. How well does each paper match:
    • your research question?
    • your systematic review methodology e.g. PICO?
    • your search terms?
  2. Where does each paper sit in the hierarchy of evidence that you are using, for example:
    • meta-analysis?
    • systematic review?
    • other?


Review and test your search

Green Tick [Image source: Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/en/download-successful-tick-expert-1013983/, copied under CC0 1.0, https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en]Review your search and make changes as required. Have you:

  1. Translated your question into search terms?
  2. Identified all databases you need to search
  3. Checked for spelling mistakes/typos/syntax errors?
  4. been comprehensive with your search terms?
  5. Looked for subject headings for your main concepts?
  6. Run any subject headings used as keywords also?
  7. Checked your search combinations (and, or)?

Use Table 2: Elements for the Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies checklist (p. 153) available at:

Test your search using key articles on your topic.

Before you start searching it is a good idea to have some key articles that you need to find as part of your review. You can then use these key articles to test your searches.

Ash yourself: Are the articles appearing in your search results?

If not, are they:

  1. in a journal that is indexed by that database? 
  2. picked up when you searched other databases?
  3. picked up and then removed by a particular search set?
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