Western Libraries

Systematic & Scoping Reviews


All applicable databases and indexes need to be searched to locate studies and eliminate bias. Use the links below to locate key resources. There are two key types of sources to search - licensed databases and alternate sources. Techniques for finding alternate sources include searching sources for grey literature; backward and forward reference chaining; hand searching; and contacting experts in the field.

Grey Literature

“…unpublished research may be considered “grey literature.”… Grey literature is produced at all levels of government, academia, business, and industry in print and electronic formats not controlled by commercial publishers. Grey literature can include government reports, committee reports, academic papers, theses, bibliographies, conference papers and abstracts, discussion papers, newsletters, PowerPoint presentations, conference proceedings, program evaluation reports, standards/best practice documents, technical specifications and standards, and working papers(Alberaniet al. 1990). Because of the nature of grey literature, it is often difficult to access through mainstream databases, such as MEDLINE and CINAHL. The majority of grey literature is not peer-reviewed and has limited referencing of information.”
Benzies, K.M. (2006). State-of-the-evidence-reviews: Advantages and challenges of including grey literature. Worldviews of Evidence Based Nursing, 3(2), 55-61. Retrieved from http://www.nursingsociety.org/Publications/Journals/Pages/worldviews.aspx

Different Types and Sources of Grey Literature

  • Canadian Health Research Collection
  • Dissertations and Theses Database - ProQuest
  • Conference proceedings
  • Newsletters
  • Reports
  • Government documents (including NGO's & IGO's)
  • Informal communication (meetings, telephone calls)
  • Videos
  • Technical reports
  • Census, economic & other data
  • Association, Organizations - Canadian Medical Association, Health Canada, World Health Organization, etc.
  • Web Search Engines - Google scholar

New Sources of Grey Literature & Data

  • e-prints, preprints, post-prints
  • emails, blogposts, even tweets
  • Web 2.0 communication channels
  • wiki articles & virtual worlds like Second Life
  • listserv archives 
  • digital libraries (i.e. Institutional Repositories)
  • grey (gray) data; spatial data (ie. Google Earth)
  • meta-searching, federated searching, portals
  • electronic & social networks
  • images, maps

Dean Giustini, UBC Biomedical Branch Librarian - March 2010.  ’Finding the hard to finds: Searching for the grey literature’

Finding Articles

  • List of Databases at Western:
    • Medicine - PubMed,Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library
    • Multidisciplinary Scopus, Web of Science
    • Nursing and Allied Health -CINAHL
    • Other - AMED, PsycINFO, etc.
  • Other systematic Reviews -- Cochrane Library - Under C

Finding Clinical Trials


  • Turning Research Into Practice (TRIP)