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MDSC1102: Literature review

A guide to assist MDSC1002 students to conduct a literature review for the grant application assignment.

The databases

Step 3: Searching the databases

Which database should I use?

For this assignment, try searching each of the five databases listed below in the order suggested.

Health databases:

The Cochrane Library (produced by the international Cochrane Collaboration) is a collection of databases each containing different types of high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making.  

Tips for using the Cochrane Library:

  • Cochrane Library is freely available online. However, access via Flinders University databases listing to have access to full text articles held by the library.
  • Use double quote marks around any phrases.
  • Look at the results in the following two databases:
    • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (these reviews locate and synthesise of all available high-level evidence on a specific healthcare topic)
    • Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (a quality repository of clinical trials on healthcare topics)
  • When documenting the search, remember to include specific details of the database 'issue' you used, e.g.:
    • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews : Issue 3 of 12, March 2016, or
    • Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials : Issue 2 of 12, February 2016


PubMed is a large biomedical databases (>27 million citations) produced by the US National Library of Medicine.

Tips for using PubMed:

  • Freely available but access via Flinders University link to get access to fulltext articles.
  • Boolean operators must be entered in uppercase in this database
  • Try sorting by Best Match


Informit is a multidisciplinary database with a strong Australian focus. It is key when researching any topics relating to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.

Tips for using Informit:

  • Use the Informit Health Database Collection subset of Informit for best results
  • Use double quotation marks around multi-word search terms, e.g. "health care"
  • Make sure ANDs and ORs are in capital letters.
  • Expect repeated results.

​Multidisciplinary databases:

Web of Science is one of the largest multidisciplinary databases encompassing subject areas in health, social sciences and science. 

Tips for searching Web of Science:

  • Use double quotation marks around multi-word search terms
  • Explore 'Times cited' and 'Cited references' links to expand your search
  • Sort results by relevancy, rather than publication date.

ProQuest is a large multidisciplinary database so you need to search the health and medicine subset only.

Tips for using ProQuest:

  • Once within ProQuest, click on the Health & Medicine subset.  Health & Medicine Search 
  • Change from Basic search to the 'Advanced' search option for better results.
  • Find the drop-down menu at right hand side of the search box. Change the 'Anywhere' option to 'Anywhere except full text'. Again, this will produce better results.
  • Use double quotation marks around multi-word search terms (e.g. "health care").
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