Skip to main content
Login to LibApps


A guide for finding quality information on food science and nutrition.

Differences between types of reviews


 Differences between a systematic review and other types of reviews | from Cochrane Library


"A systematic review identifies an intervention for a specific disease or other problem in health care, and determines whether or not this intervention works. To do this authors locate, appraise and synthesize evidence from as many relevant scientific studies as possible. They summarize conclusions about effectiveness, and provide a unique collation of the known evidence on a given topic, so that others can easily review the primary studies for any intervention.

Systematic reviews differ from other types of review in that they adhere to a strict design in order to make them more comprehensive, thus minimizing the chance of bias, and ensuring their reliability. Rather than reflecting the views of the authors, or being based on a partial selection of the literature, (as is the case with many articles and reviews that are not explicitly systematic), they contain all known references to trials on a particular intervention and a comprehensive summary of the available evidence. The reviews are therefore also valuable sources of information for those receiving care, as well as for decision makers and researchers."

Research Databases - Search by Topic

 Research Databases 

All ASU Library Research Databases - browse by title through A-Z list or by topic area

Nutrition Related Research Databases

PubMed About the resource | Open Access Research Database!  Search for a topic to retrieve journal citations and abstracts  covering biomedicine and health, broadly defined to encompass those areas of the life sciences, behavioral sciences, chemical sciences, and bioengineering needed by health professionals and others engaged in basic research and clinical care, public health, health policy development, or related educational activities. MEDLINE also covers life sciences vital to biomedical practitioners, researchers, and educators, including aspects of biology, environmental science, marine biology, plant and animal science as well as biophysics and chemistry. Increased coverage of life sciences began in 2000.

 CINAHL - About the resource  | Search a topic and retrieve journal citations covering nursing and allied health journal literature  | Useful allied health areas include Athletic Training, Nutrition and Dietetics, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation. (Cumulative Index for Nursing and Allied Health Literature)

Cochrane Library  - About the resource | A best evidence database |  Search your topic to find a full-text Cochrane Systematic Review (see "What is a CSR" in left column of this page) OR search to find a journal citation & abstract of a systematic review not yet done by Cochrane, but quality assessed OR  search to find a journal citation & abstract of a clinical trial taken from research databases i.e PubMed or EMBASE, published, and unpublished sources, i.e. conference proceedings.

Food Science and Technology Abstracts  - About the resource| Covers every aspect of food science, food technology & food-related human nutrition. Indexes worldwide scientific journals, patents, books, conference proceedings, reports, theses, standards, and legislation relating to food science and technology.

MedlinePlus - About the resource  | Search a topic in English or Spanish and retrieve the most authoritative consumer health information gathered from trusted sources. It's "one stop" shopping since your search retrieves/links to the best consumer health information from all the major health associations, i.e. American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association.|  Just like PubMed, MedlinePlus is developed by  National Institutes of Health and Medical Library Association| 

PsycInfo - About the resource |  Search a topic to retrieve journal citations and abstracts of books, book chapters, dissertation, and technical reports across the behavioral and social sciences.

Web Of Science  - About the resource - Search a topic to retrieve journal and conference proceedings citations and abstracts with cross-disciplinary coverage across sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. 

Search Strategies - General and Example

Below are four major search strategies that you can use to systematically search across multiple databases, although the example below is from a PubMed search.  Doing so will ensure with reasonable certainty that you do not miss important, relevant research on your topic.  The example PICO (Research) question was chosen to illustrate the effectiveness and strengths of each search strategy since examples relevant to this topic are retrieved using each strategy in PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane, and PsycInfo.

*Examples below refer to searching in PubMed, but the same methods can be used in other databases

**If using CINAHL for a Keyword Search, un-check the 'Suggest Subject Headings' box above the search boxes - then type in your Keywords and search

General Searching Tips for most research databases, including PubMed:

  • Use " " to search for a specific phrase like "electronic health records"
  • Use * to get all forms of a word: child* = child, children, childhood
  • Use ( ) with OR between synonyms to group synonyms for expanded searching: (AZ OR Arizona)
  • Use AND between synonym groups to add groups together in keyword searching: (AZ OR Arizona) AND (child* OR adolescen* OR teen*)


4 Search Strategies

Start with your topic statement, or with a Research or PICO Question

The examples below start with this research question or 'PICO question' (P=Problem/Popluation, I=Intervention/proposed solution, C=Comparison (optional alternate intervention or solution), O=desired Outcome) as a starting point

  • Does eating dinner as a family help prevent childhood obesity?

Use the 2 Broad Strategies  - Keyword and Keyword with Synonyms

  • Get a Snap Shot of a Research Database: how much and what type of material does it have on your topic?
  • Broaden your initial search with synonym groups to get more results

Use the 2 Targeted Strategies - Keyword in Title and Subject Heading

  • Focus in on the most relevant results for your topic and use these to discover database Subject Heading tags that can match you to articles that have major coverage of a topic - regardless of the phrasing or keyword terms used by each individual author
  • Use Subject Headings tags to discover articles that have major coverage of a topic - regardless of the phrasing or keyword terms used by each individual author in their title or abstract


2 Broad Strategies

  • Keyword
    • Pull out the major concepts from your topic or research question and connect them with AND
    • Example: family dinner AND childhood obesity


  • Keyword with Synonyms
    • Think of synonyms and different word forms for each of your keyword concepts.  For example, synonyms or other word forms for falls include: falling, balance
    • Create a new, more complex keyword searching by creating synonym groups using () around each group
    • Use OR between each synonym or word form in the ()
    • Use AND between each () group
    • Example: (family OR families) AND (dinner OR meal OR meals) AND childhood obesity


2 Targeted Strategies

  • Keyword in Title
    • Article Titles often contain the main ideas of an article's content - so finding results with your keywords in the article title will often increase the relevance of results for your topic
      • *One Disadvantage is that searching for keywords in the title will *not* find all things that will be useful, but it's a good way to focus in and discover some excellent results that can help you further define your topic and give you ideas for more specific keywords or Subject Headings tags that you can use in other ways to get more results that are still more relevant.
    • Use your synonym search
    • Add the code: [ti] or [title] after each keyword
      • In this case, childhood obesity is so specific as a phrase, I left it as keywords only, and only added the code to search the title after the other keywords
    • Example: (family[ti] OR families[ti]) AND (dinner[ti] OR meal[ti] OR meals[ti]) AND childhood obesity

    • Other databases' Advanced Search mode
      • You may be able to use the dropdown to the left or right of a search box to choose the field you search, such as 'TITLE' or 'ARTICLE TITLE' or 'ABSTRACT' instead of the default which is often 'ALL Fields' or 'Select a Field,' etc.
      • Use separate rows if you like to help you structure the search (you may or may not need to use () if you use separate rows):
      • With some research databases, you may need to use () around more than one synonym with 'OR' between them to the database that you want any word within each group, and you want at least 1 word from each group. 
    • *Identify Subject Headings for a Subject Headings search!
      • Results from a Keyword in Title search are often a great place to look for ideas of Subject Headings to use
      • Subject Headings are specific words or phrases that database employees use to tag articles that have content focused on a particular topic, **regardless of how the author/s of the article describe the topic.
        • Subject Headings connect you to results relevant to your topic, even if you don't think of all the different words (keywords) that someone might use to describe the topic 
      • Once you identify some useful Subject Headings, you can use them for a Subject Headings search
  • Subject Headings
    • Subject Headings connect you to results relevant to your topic, even if you don't think of all the different words (keywords) that someone might use to describe the topic 
    • Use Mesh Headings, Medical Subject Headings in PubMed (or 'subject headings' if in another research database) that you saw in the results of your other searches
      • Example: In records for our earlier searches, we could see the following MeSH subject headings
        • Obesity
        • Meals
        • Family
    • Add the code: [mh] or [mesh] after each heading
    • Example: Obesity[mh] AND Meals[mh] AND Family[mh]


The ASU Library acknowledges the twenty-two Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries. Arizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. ASU Library acknowledges the sovereignty of these nations and seeks to foster an environment of success and possibility for Native American students and patrons. We are advocates for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies within contemporary library practice. ASU Library welcomes members of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh, and all Native nations to the Library.