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Systematic Reviews And Other Review Types

This guide will assist you in starting your systematic, scoping and other reviews.

Official Search Strategy

Should you decide to register a scoping review, per PRISMA protocols you will need at least one official search strategy conducted on any one database. For a systematic review, you will require official search strategies for all databases used.  

Please Note anything in Italics below is there merely as an explanatory note and does not need to be included on the final draft. Anything in bold will need to included in your final draft.


Step One 

(Include the initial topic/question in both paragraph and PICO format)

Question: In mild to moderate depression, is serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or Saint John’s Wort more effective?  

P = depression

I = serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)

C = Saint John’s Wort

O = improved mood

Step Two

(Include a concept table listing all possible synonyms, phrases, subject heading terms, and if the database allows it truncation and/or wildcards used).

Concept table:


Possible Keywords

MeSH Terms


depression OR “depressive disorder”

“depressive disorder”

serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)

“serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor” OR SSRI OR "serotonin uptake inhibitors"

"serotonin uptake inhibitors"

Saint John’s Wort

“Saint John’s Wort” OR hypericum


*per Pubmed - Note that PubMed does not recommend using truncation for searching, and does not support wildcard or proximity searching at all. if the database facilitates truncation or wildcards then any resulting search terms utilizing these techniques must be included on the table above. If it does not facilitate truncation or wildcards then a note should be left to illustrate that you took truncation and wildcards into consideration and didn't just overlook it.

Step Three

Itemize your search

Search Strategy:

#1 depression = X results 

#2 "depressive disorder" = X results 

#3  depressive disorder [MeSH] = X results 

#4 combine #1 & #2 & #3 = X results 

#5 "serotonin specific reuptake inhibitor" = X results 

#6 SSRI = X results  

#7 "serotonin uptake inhibitors" = X results 

#8 "serotonin uptake inhibitors" [MeSH] = X results 

#9 combine #5 & #6 & #7 & #8  = X results 

#10 combine steps (#4) & (#9) = X results. 

#11 "saint john's wort" = X results 

#12  hypercium = X results 

#13 hypericum [MeSH] = X results  

#14 combine steps #11 & #12 & #13 = X results 

#15 combine steps #10 & #14 = X results

#16 Limiters = e.g. last ten years; English language

#17 combine steps #15 AND #16 = X results

X results total