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How many databases should be used in a systematic review?

Most individuals who seek systematic review services from us often ask, “How many databases should be used in a systematic review?” In this article, we will provide a comprehensive answer to this question.

Based on my experience as a seasoned systematic reviewer, most systematic reviews published in various journals often utilize between 3 and 6 databases. That’s what’s commonly done out there, but it doesn’t reflect the optimal choice. So, let’s find out how many databases are optimal for a systematic review.

How Many Databases for A Systematic Review?

When determining the number of databases for your systematic review, consider the following two factors:

i. Discipline: Apart from multidisciplinary databases like Scopus and Web of Science, most databases are discipline-specific. Consider PubMed and MEDLINE for health sciences, for example.

ii. Publication Bias: In conducting a systematic review, publication bias refers to a phenomenon whereby researchers are likely to publish their studies if they found positive and significant findings. Consequently, many unpublished studies with negative and non-significant findings are potentially missed. To address this problem, it is recommended to utilize grey literature, such as PhD dissertations, industry white papers, and more. Therefore, if you want to proactively address publication bias in your systematic review and enhance its credibility, you may need to search for grey literature on platforms like Google Scholar and library catalogs.

In my experience, when conducting a systematic review, use the following formula to determine the number of databases to search:

First, consider at least one multidisciplinary database. In this case, I would recommend either Scopus or Web of Science. Searching both can yield more articles, especially when your topic has scarce research studies.

Second, consider at least two discipline-specific databases. For example, for healthcare sciences, you can search both EMBASE and PubMed. There is no limit, though. You can add more if you like. The more you search, the more you boost the credibility of your systematic review.

Third, consider at least one source of grey literature. Google Scholar is often used as a source of grey literature. Similarly, there is no limit. You can search more from library catalogs and other renowned platforms like ProQuest Dissertations.

Key Takeaway:

In summary, there should be a minimum of four databases for a systematic review: one multidisciplinary database, two discipline-specific databases, and one source of grey literature. Each time I take this approach, the systematic reviews I complete for my clients are often published in highly prestigious academic journals.

Are you planning to conduct a systematic review and don’t have access to the minimum number of databases needed for a high-quality systematic review? Look no further. At SystematicReviewPro, we have access to a wide range of databases and world-class university libraries. Contact us today at [email protected]. You can also place a free inquiry for a quote.

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