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Systematic and Scoping Reviews


Why search subject-specific databases like those listed below?

  • Focus on a single subject or on a related discipline
  • Highly relevant and peer reviewed content
  • Include non-journal content including books, dissertations, theses, reviews, etc.
  • Include thesauri or controlled vocabulary 
  • Allow proximity and adjacency searching
  • Provide limiters or filters to narrow your search
  • Include related articles and cited reference searching

It is important to search two or more databases to avoid selection bias.

Below is a select list of subject-specific databases:

Health and Medicine


Social Sciences




Advanced Search Techniques

Advanced Search Tips:

  • Use Boolean Logic - AND, OR, NOT
  • Use thesauri - MeSH in PubMed, PsycINFO thesaurus etc.
  • Use a combination of keywords and subject headings
  • Truncate your search - psych* (psychology, psychological, psychologies)
  • Use quotation marks for phrase searching - "health inequality"
  • Use "Field Searching" to narrow your search and make it more relevant (For example TI - title search, AB - search within the abstract)
  • Use search translators like SR-Accelerator to edit the "syntax" of the different databases.
  • Use "search hedges" for your search. Search Hedges are standardized searches that can save you time. (See Search Hedges box to the left for examples). Always remember to check the date as you might need to update the hedge.

Consult the Help pages for each database to learn more about the advanced search options available.


Search Hedges

Search Hedges

What are they?

Search Hedges are standardized search strategies that can help you save time. 

How do you find them?


Tip: Some search hedges may be older and require updating

Snowballing and Hand Searching

Hand Searching

Searching in individual journals                                                                                                   

How can you do this?

  • JournalTOCs - search over 32,000 journal table of contents.
  • Omni - Search within a specific journal






Searching for references related to a specific article.

Reverse or Backward Snowballing - looking at the references cited in the article.

Forward Snowballing - looking for articles that have cited a specific article.

Example of an article cited and references

How can you do this?


Search Tools and Guidelines

Grey Literature

Grey (or Gray) Literature - What is it?

According to A Dictionary of Public Health, grey literature is:

Unpublished papers and reports, academic dissertations, etc., that by common agreement are of sufficient quality to be reliable, verifiable, and acceptable sources of original observations for citation purposes.

Porta, M., & Last, J. M. L. M. (2018). Gray literature. In J. M. Last (Ed.), A Dictionary of Public Health. Oxford University Press.

Where can you find Grey Literature in the Library?

Guides to finding grey literature: