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Searching the Public Health Literature More Effectively: More Databases, Systematic Reviews, Grey Literature

Additional Databases

Nearly all online databases allow for truncation, phrase searching, Boolean operators, thesaurus searching, etc., as well as access to online articles from licensed/subscribed journals via UC-eLinks  UC-eLinks icon or Get it at UC Get it at UC icon.
Below are listed some important article databases for public health research; for a comprehensive list of dozens of databases, see Databases in Public Health.

Grey Literature

Grey Literature generally refers to publications not produced by commercial publishers, including reports (pre-prints, preliminary progress and advanced reports, technical reports, market research reports, etc.), theses, conference proceedings, and other documents. They are often produced by government entities, research institutions, or NGOs/IGOs.

The Library's Public Health Subject Guides web guide consists of web pages by topic. Each page consists of annotated lists of organizations, agencies, databases, and publications. Topics include: 
    • Environmental Health 
    • Cancer 
    • Food/Nutrition 
    • Maternal and Child Health 
    • Statistical/Data Resources 
and many more.

Google and other search engines can be useful for finding grey literature. Improve your search using: 
• Quotes for phrase searching: 
"social marketing" 
• Site: to specify a particular site or domain: 
"social marketing" site:.org (for a domain search); "social marketing" site:cdcnpin.org (for a specific site search) 
• Boolean search statements (eg, OR): 
("social marketing" OR "audience segmentation")

Doing Systematic Reviews

Before you embark on a systematic review, please understand that this could easily be a one year or more project. Here is a decision tree (source) to help you decide is a systematic, or other type or review, is appropriate.

You may also wish to peruse UCSF's Systematic Review Guide for information. You may also wish to consider conducting another type of literature review; see this table for information on several types of reviews (eg, scoping review, mapping review, rapid review, etc.)

These articles may also be helpful:

How to conduct a systematic review from beginning to end (from Covidence; easy to read summary of the 7 steps).

Five steps to conducting a systematic review. Khan KS, Kunz R, Kleijnen J, Antes G. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 2003 Mar;96(3):118-21. PubMed PMID: 12612111

A Guide to Conducting a Standalone Systematic Literature Review Okoli C. Communications of the Association for Information Systems 2015; 37(1): 879-910.

The difference between a systematic review and a scoping review (from Covidence).

An article on the importance of looking at the science behind the articles you review when assessing quality:  Challenges and recommendations on the conduct of systematic reviews of observational epidemiologic studies in environmental and occupational health Arroyave WD, et al. Journal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology 2021; 31(1):21-30.

Consult the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (2nd edition) for a very thorough discussion of the systematic review process.

UC Berkeley licenses Covidence, a tool to help you with your systematic reviews.
In Covidence, you can:
import citations,
screen titles and abstracts,
upload references,
screen full text,
create forms for critical appraisal,
perform risk of bias tables,
complete data extraction, and
export a PRISMA flowchart summarizing your review process.
As an institutional member, our users have priority access to Covidence support. Our license allows unlimited simultaneous reviews, and you can add people who are not affiliated with UCB.
To access Covidence using the UC Berkeley institutional account, start at this page and follow the instructions.

Finding Systematic Reviews

Systematic reviews seek to collate all evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to address a specific research question. They aim to minimize bias by using explicit, systematic methods. (from Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions)

A systematic review is a review that reports or includes the following:
i) research question
ii) sources that were searched, with a reproducible search strategy (naming of databases, naming of search platforms/engines, search date and complete search strategy)
iii) inclusion and exclusion criteria
iv) selection (screening) methods
v) critically appraises and reports the quality/risk of bias of the included studies
vi) information about data analysis and synthesis that allows the reproducibility of the results
(from Krnic Martinic, M., Pieper, D., Glatt, A. et al. Definition of a systematic review used in overviews of systematic reviews, meta-epidemiological studies and textbooks. BMC Med Res Methodol 19, 203 (2019) doi:10.1186/s12874-019-0855-0)

Catalogs

Use the library catalogs to find books, reports, etc. on your topic. Books, while not often where original research is published, can often provide an overview of a topic and get you started with some key concepts.

Note: OskiCat and Melvyl retired on July 27, 2021.

Low & Middle Income (LMIC) Search Hedge

If you are searching for information on, or studies that were done in, LMICs, you are welcome to copy and paste this list of terms into the search box of whatever database(s) you are using. Please be aware the list is almost 600 words long.

USA Search Hedge

If you are searching for information on, or studies that were done in, the USA, you are welcome to copy and paste this list of terms into the search box of whatever database(s) you are using. Please be aware the list is about 175 words long.