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Regular users of the Cochrane Library will notice several changes to the layout and search functionality following the switch to Wiley InterScience. This section of the Guide highlights some of these changes. If you are new to the Cochrane Library, the examples given here explain how the information is organised and show how, with a little practice, you can navigate your way around the Library to find the information you are looking for.

One tip to remember is that you can return to the Cochrane Library homepage directly from any other page simply by clicking on the Cochrane Library Issue link at the top of the screen.

There are two ways to find information in the Library. From the Cochrane Library homepage you can either choose to browse the content or use one of several search options.

Browsing the Library
The Browse feature allows you to access articles through an alphabetical listing of the contents of each database.

Browse Articles By

Selecting Cochrane Reviews brings up an A to Z listing of completed reviews and protocols (reviews in progress). The selection can be further refined by choosing to browse just Protocols or Reviews. You can view the full-text of any review or protocol simply by clicking on the title.

Cochrane Reviews - A to Z listing of completed reviews

As the Cochrane Library grows, browsing through the list of reviews may not be helpful if you are looking for a specific condition. However, if you want to get an overview of the variety of conditions and topics covered in the Cochrane Library, simply click on the relevant database link under the Browse Articles By section.

Note, that because of the very large number of records in CENTRAL the browse function is not available for this part of the Library. Selecting CENTRAL takes you to the Advanced Search page.

You can also browse through the topic lists of the different Cochrane review groups. To do this click the Topics link and select the appropriate Cochrane review group from the drop-down list.

Browse topics by Cochrane Review Group

The topics covered by the selected Group appear as a hierarchical list with the number beside each topic indicating the number of relevant reviews and protocols. To see the titles of these reviews and protocols and to link straight to the full-text, simply navigate down the hierarchy by expanding the topic you're interested in.

Browse topics by Cochrane Review Group - Airwaves selected

Basic Searching

The most basic search can be done from the Cochrane Library homepage. To the right of the screen under the Search In This Title label you'll see there is a single search window where you can enter your search term(s). The default is to search across all text in the Library but you can choose to restrict your search to particular fields, such as the title or abstract, by selecting field restrictors from the drop-down menu.

Search area

When using this basic search option, searches are performed across all the databases, so for example, searching on arthritis will retrieve records from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Cochrane Reviews), the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) plus any other database which contains records with the word arthritis. Please be aware that the screen will appear blank while the search is being processed

The number of records or 'hits' retrieved in each database by that word or phrase appears in the Search Results. The default display is to show the results in Cochrane Reviews. In the example below, you can see that arthritis appears in 254 out of the 3559 records in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and in 130 records in the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE).

Search results - Restricted to Reviews and Protocols

Although the default display is Cochrane Reviews, you can select any database simply by clicking the relevant link. In the list that follows, reviews (R) and protocols (P) appear alphabetically in multiples of 25. If you only want to look at complete reviews then use the Restrict to function to the right of the screen. View the full-text of a review by clicking on Record or click Next> to view the titles of the next 25 reviews.

It's worth remembering that the first three resources in the Cochrane Library are arranged as a hierarchy of evidence. Once you've done a search, look first to see whether there is a Cochrane review on your topic, if there isn't, check DARE for any other systematic reviews. If you still can't find a review relevant to your area, then CENTRAL will tell you about any trials that have been conducted.

The Cochrane Library also supports phrase searching. So for example, if you want to see what there is on low back pain, a search on "low back pain" retrieves any record which contains these three words as a phrase (i.e. appearing next to each other). Note, that you need to insert the phrase within quotation marks to create an exact match.

Search phrase - low back pain

Refining your search

When you search for common conditions you may find your search retrieves many hundreds of records, some of which might not seem very relevant when you browse the titles. In the example of arthritis, many of the reviews retrieved clearly look at interventions for arthritis, but some (e.g. Acupuncture for low back pain) don't appear to be particularly relevant. The reason these records show up is because somewhere in the text the authors have mentioned the word arthritis, even though arthritis may not be the main subject of the record.

If your search returns too many irrelevant records and you want to be more precise, then there are several ways of refining your search. For anything but the most basic of searches, the Cochrane Advanced Search page is the place to start.

» Field searching
One way of refining a search when using the search window on the Library homepage is to select field restrictors from the drop-down menu as referred to earlier.

» Combining terms using AND
Because the Cochrane Library contains a lot of information, you may find some search terms retrieve an overwhelming number of records (even after restricting your search to the title or abstract). If you're looking for information about a particular treatment for a specific condition, then it's often quicker and easier to combine these in the same search using the AND operator.

For example, corticosteroids are used in the management of acute severe asthma. To search for records in the Cochrane Library which contain BOTH the word asthma AND corticosteroids you would enter the search asthma and corticosteroids.

Search phrase - asthma and corticosteroids

» Combining terms using OR
Sometimes it's helpful to use multiple words to search for a single topic. This would be the case if the condition or intervention is referred to differently in different parts of the world, or if there are different spellings (e.g. British English vs American English). It's also helpful to combine synonyms (e.g. bed-wetting is the same as enuresis).

Searching on viagra is an example of when it would be sensible to use OR, since viagra (its proprietary name) is also referred to as sildenafil (its generic drug name). In this example, a search on viagra or sildenafil retrieves any record which contains EITHER of these two terms.

Search phrase - viagra or sildenafil

» Truncation
Sometimes the topic you're interested in may have several variations, for example pregnant, pregnancy or pregnancies. You could search each of the words individually, but it's quicker to use the truncation facility. Inserting an asterisk (*) after the main stem of the word retrieves all variant endings, so pregnan* will retrieve pregnant, pregnancy or pregnancies. You can also use the truncation symbol at the beginning of a word, so *eclampsia will retrieve pre-eclampsia and preeclampsia as well as eclampsia.

Advanced Searching

For greater flexibility choose the Cochrane Advanced Search, the first option under the Search In This Title label to the right of the screen.

Search area - Cochrane Advanced Search highlighted

The Advanced Search screen allows you to build searches by combining several different concepts using Boolean operators (AND, OR or NOT) and lets you limit your search according to particular databases, types of record or year(s).

The following example shows how you might use the Advanced Search if you were interested in finding out about the benefits of using fluoride toothpaste to prevent dental caries in children.

Advanced search example

In this example we have chosen to Search All Text but the drop-down list lets you limit the search to several fields, including Record Title, Author, Abstract and Keywords.

Searches can be further refined by limiting to one or more of the databases in the Cochrane Library. The default search selection is set to All of The Cochrane Library. You can also choose to retrieve records according to their status, for example, if they are new or updated. And finally, there is the option of limiting your search to a range of publication years.

Restrict Search by Product

Note that a useful feature of the Advanced Search page are the Search Tips to the right of the screen. You use these tips to check specific search query options.

Search Tips

There are several other search options that can be accessed from the Advanced Search page.

» MeSH searching
MeSH searching allows users to search for concepts using the US National Library of Medicine's controlled thesaurus of medical subject headings. For casual users of the Library, you can safely ignore this search option. A detailed description of MeSH searching can be found in the Search Tips page.

» Search history
Search History allows you to view searches run during your current search session. It's a useful feature that allows you to build searches by combining several search concepts. The example below shows how searches are built using search ID numbers.

Advanced Search - (#1 or #2) and #3

» Saved searches
Saved searches provides a method for storing and maintaining individual searches and search strategies. You can save individual searches by clicking the Save Search selection on a Search Results page or by clicking on the Save Search Strategy selection on the Search History page.

Further help

In this section of the Guide we have highlighted the main features of searching the Cochrane Library. For a more detailed description of each search function and a summary of the changes from the previous version of the Library, select Search Tips from the Library homepage.

Another resource available from the Library homepage is the User Guide developed by the Library's publishers. This 20-page booklet is available as a PDF file and gives an overview of the Cochrane Library on Wiley InterScience. It provides some useful supplementary material on aspects of the Library that haven't yet been covered in detail in the NICS User Guide, such as how to export citations and manipulate the meta-analysis diagrams.

The publishers of the Cochrane Library and the Cochrane Collaboration are continually looking to make the Library more user-friendly. You can let us have your comments on any aspect of using the Cochrane Library by clicking the Feedback button at the top of the page.

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What is on this page
Green arrow Browsing the Library
Green arrow Basic searching
Green arrow Refining your search
Green arrow Advanced searching
Green arrow Further help

spacer Please note
The images on this page are from the Cochrane Library issue 3, 2004 and are meant for illustrative purposes. Later issues of the Library will contain more records.

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