Finding the Evidence: Literature Searching Tools in Support of Systematic Reviews

( Last Updated : November 26, 2021)

CADTH’s skilled Information Specialists use a variety of searching aids to perform their comprehensive searches. These same tools are being shared with other Canadian librarians to help them conduct literature searches for systematic reviews and health technology assessments (HTAs).

CADTH Information Services Tools

~ Valuable, practical aids for librarians everywhere ~

CADTH’s grey literature checklist is a useful tool for navigating literature that is not commercially published.  

This checklist can be used to enhance the quality, results, and evaluation of literature searches.

A sample of search filters developed and maintained by the Information Services Team at CADTH

Other Research and Resources

Grey Literature

Google Custom Search engine: guide to the set up and management of a customized search engine. Ottawa: Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; 2012 Apr.

Nkansah E, Frey N, Ford C. Using the Google Custom Search engine to search selected grey literature websites. Poster presented at: 2012 CADTH Symposium. Evidence Matters: Outcomes, Efficiency, Impact; 2012 Apr 15-17; Ottawa, ON.

Peer Review of Search Strategies

Mierzwinski-Urban M, Severn M, Hodgson A. CADTH peer review checklist: enhancing the review and evaluation of the quality of search strategies. Poster presented at: Canadian Health Libraries Association 2011 Conference. 2011 May 26-30; Calgary, AB.

Sampson M, McGowan J, Lefebvre C, Moher D, Grimshaw J. PRESS: Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies. Ottawa: Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; 2008.

PRESS Forum website.  A forum for librarians to request and conduct peer reviews of search strategies.

Spry C, Mierzwinski-Urban M, Rabb D. Peer review of literature search strategies: does it make a difference? Poster presented at: Canadian Health Libraries Association 2013 Conference; 2013 May 22-25; Saskatoon, SK.

Search Development

Rader T, Farrah K, Kaunelis D. Things go better with PEPC: testing the performance of patient-related literature search filters. Poster presented at: 2016 CADTH Symposium; 2016 Apr 11-12; Ottawa, ON.

Search PubMed cheatsheet.  Ottawa: Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; 2014.

Farrah K, Mierzwinski-Urban M, Cimon K. Playing it safe: validating search filters for adverse events.  Poster presented at: 2013 Annual Meeting and Exhibition of the Medical Library Association (MLA ’13), the 11th International Congress on Medical Librarianship (ICML), the 7th International Conference of Animal Health Information Specialists (ICAHIS), and the 6th International Clinical Librarian Conference (ICLC).  One Health: Information in an Interdependent World; 2013 May 3-8; Boston, MA.

Kaunelis D. When everything is too much: development of a CADTH narrow economic search filter. Poster presented at:  2011 CADTH Symposium. Evidence to Practice: Maximizing our Investment in Health Care; 2011 Apr 3-5; Vancouver, BC.

Glanville J, Fleetwood K, Yellowlees A, Kaunelis D, Mensinkai S. Development and Testing of Search Filters to Identify Economic Evaluations in MEDLINE and EMBASE. Ottawa: Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; 2009.

Moulton K, Ford C. When PICO doesn't cut it: formulating well-built research questions, literature search processes, and parameters for unique healthcare topics. Poster presented at: 2012 CADTH Symposium. Evidence Matters: Outcomes, Efficiency, Impact; 2012 Apr 15-17; Ottawa.

Kaunelis D, Farrah K, Severn M. The Missing 2%: PubMed NOT MEDLINE. Poster presented at: Canadian Health Libraries Association 2010 Conference.  2010 Jun 7-11; Kingston, ON.

Morrison A, Moulton K, Clark M, Polisena J, Fiander M, Mierzwinski-Urban M, Mensinkai S, Clifford T, Hutton B. English-language restriction when conducting systematic review-based meta-analyses: systematic review of published studies. Ottawa: Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; 2009.

CADTH CAI and Ranking Tool for Search Filters (Revised and adapted from: Jenkins M. Evaluation of methodological search filters: a review. Health Info Libr J 2004;21(3):148-63.)

Bak G, Mierzwinski-Urban M, Fitzsimmons H, Morrison A, Maden-Jenkins M.  A pragmatic critical appraisal instrument for search filters: introducing the CADTH CAI.  Health Information and Libraries Journal 2009;26(3):211-219.

Hodgson A, Argáez C, Spry C, Hutton B. The EMBASE subject heading Systematic review – Should we include is in our search filters? Poster presented at: Canadian Health Libraries Association 2009 Conference.  2009 May 30 - Jun 3; Winnipeg, MB.

Mierzwinski-Urban M. CADTH's Health Technology Inquiry Service rapid literature searches. Poster presented at: SLA 2009 Annual Conference.  2009 Jun 14-17; Washington,DC.

Other Resources

Finding what works in health care: standards for systematic reviews. Washington D.C.: Institute of Medicine of the National Academies; 2011.
See Chapter 3: Standards for Finding and Assessing Individual Studies.  Standard 3.1

Higgins JPT, Green S, eds.  Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. Version 5.1.0. [Updated March 2011].  The Cochrane Collaboration; 2011.
See Part 2: General methods for Cochrane Reviews.  Chapter 6: searching for studies.( Authors: Carol Lefebvre, Eric Manheimer and Julie Glanville on behalf of the Cochrane Information Retrieval Methods Group)

Relevo R, Paynter R. Peer Review of Search Strategies. Methods Research Report. (Prepared by the Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2007-100572.) AHRQ Publication No. 12-EHC068-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. June 2012.

The Cochrane Collaboration.  Cochrane Information Retrieval Methods Group (Cochrane IRMG).   Oxford, United Kingdom; The Collaboration.

Health Technology Assessment International (HTAi).  HTAi Interest Sub-group on information resources:  Information Resources Group (IRG).  Edmonton: HTAi Secretariat.

Health Technology Assessment International (HTAi).  HTAi Vortal. Edmonton: HTAi Secretariat.

The InterTASC Information Specialists' Sub-Group Search Filter Resource. York, United Kingdom: Centre for Reviews and Dissemination.

Health Information Research Unit (HiRU): Evidence-Based Health Informatics.  Hedges search filters.  Hamilton (ON): McMaster University.

Patrias K, author; Wendling D, editor. Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers [Internet]. 2nd edition. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2007-.

Training Sessions

For information on CADTH information services training sessions, please contact