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Systematic Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and Health Technology Assessments - Searching the Literature

This guide focuses on the process for finding studies to include in systematic and scoping reviews and Health Technology Assessments (HTAs).  For guidance regarding preparation of a review, visit the Preparing for a Comprehensive Literature Review guide.

Searching Process

The process of searching for studies to include in a Systematic Review, Scoping Review, or Health Technology Assessments (HTAs) may include:

  1. Checking previously published Systematic Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and HTAs to determine if your question has already been answered.
  2. Conduct searches for primary studies in multiple bibliographic databases (e.g. Medline, CINAHL and Scopus). 
  3. Scan reference lists of relevant articles, including articles selected for the review, as well as relevant review articles.
  4. Check who has cited relevant articles using tools such as Google Scholar, Scopus, or Web of Science.
  5. Depending on your topic, you will need to search the Grey Literature such as
    • Clinical trial registries
    • Meeting abstracts and conference proceedings
    • Clinical Practice Guidelines
    • Theses and Dissertations
    • Government Documents
    • Institute / Association Websites (e.g. Institute of Health Economics, National Institute for Clinical Excellence, Conference Board of Canada) 
  6. Contact, if necessary 
    • Authors of Relevant Articles and Reviews
    • Principle investigators of ongoing studies
    • Pharmaceutical Companies
  7. Web search engines such as Google 


Guides and Worksheets

Refining the question 

 Database search tips

Preparing for publication

Systematic / Scoping Review Registry