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Literature searching for Medical and Dental Sciences

Activity 3F: Cochrane Library, Epistemonikos

Watch the Panopto video above from the Academic Skills Centre for a sample search on the Cochrane Library (includes sub-titles).


Note that Cochrane Library results may well be indexed also in major databases such as Ovid Medline.

The following is a brief summary only and also refers to instructional material from the Cochrane organisation.

Locating Cochrane Library

Training on Cochrane Library

Headings, Keywords, Search manager

  • Cochrane uses Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) as in Medline: freetext keyword searches can also be performed
  • Search lines can be added to a Search manager screen and there combined using Boolean operators (AND / OR)
  • Screenshot below for a basic example of adding search lines in the Search manager screen

Cochrane search manager with 2 lines of search carried out then combined in a third line

Cochrane Interactive resource

Also available to University of Birmingham users is the Cochrane Interactive Learning Resource. This has detailed training on carrying out systematic reviews with "over 10 hours of self-directed learning".  

Saving results for export to referencing software

  1. First, do your search on Cochrane Library, and select the results to Export
    • The default option is RIS (EndNote), but you can also use RIS (Reference Manager)
    • RIS (Reference Manager) is recommended: this type can be uploaded into any reference management software
  2. Save the file (eg to your desktop)
  3. In Endnote Online, go to Collect - Import References 
  4. Browse and locate the downloaded file, or you can use the "Click and drag" option
  5. Format pop-up box: select Import Option 'RefMan RIS' 
  6. If you downloaded the file as RIS (EndNote)
    • Choose Wiley Online - and EndNote Import - under Import Options
  7. The references should then be imported into your EndNote Online account - Unfiled results. In EndNote Online, move the results from Unfiled to an existing group ,or set up and name a New Group


Cochrane Reviews selection for export screen view


Cochrane Trials screen view to Export selected citations

RIS (Reference Manager) option:

Cochrane Library export feature view as RIS (Reference Manager)


 RIS (EndNote) option:

Export selected citations as RIS (EndNote) screen view


Watch this Panopto video of a sample search on Epistemonikos, from the Academic Skills Centre. Includes sub-titles and headings.


In recent years the open-web Epistemonikos database has become a respected tool for locating systematic reviews and other material for evidence-based medicine.

About us outlines its origins, aims and target audience or user group.

  • The main aim of Epistemonikos is to gather scientific information (i.e. evidence) that might be relevant for health decision-making, and to provide rapid and reliable access to the best available evidence for real-life questions
  • Epistemonikos is aimed to health professionals, researchers and health decision-makers. It is not intended for the general public, even though it has been used by well-informed lay people and journalists successfully

The database is produced by the non-profit Epistemonikos Foundation.

How to use

Search features

  • Keyword searches using Boolean operators can be carried out (AND, OR, NOT). Proximity search is not available
  • Advanced search builder allows for adding search lines by Title and Abstract (jointly or separately), Authors
  • Medical subject headings (MeSH) are not used


  • Publication year
  • Added to database (year)
  • Publication type (Broad synthesis; Primary study; Structure summary; Systematic review)
  • PubMed Central (PMC)
  • Cochrane Review
  • Systematic Review Question
  • Type of meta-analysis
  • Country or regional focus

Display of some filters may depend on others being chosen first.  Systematic Review Question and Type of meta-analysis are visible if Systematic Review is chosen as Publication Type.

Each record has links to PubMed entries and DOI links to respective platform pages where available.

Exporting results

For University of Birmingham students (undergraduate and taught postgraduate), it is recommended to export results for uploading into EndNote Online to enable full-text links to material subscribed by the University.  For researchers, academic and other staff, EndNote Desktop is preferred.

  • Export results on results screen generates an RIS file with the first 100 results; logged users can export more
  • RIS file can be uploaded into referencing software
    • In EndNote Online, use the RefMan RIS import option

Sample search

  • Advanced search screen: title/abstract chosen for each line of search; use + sign to add extra search line

Covid-19 OR SARs-CoV-2 OR "Novel Coronavirus"
COPD OR "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease"
Treatment OR therapy

  • Filters:

Publication Year - last 5 years

Publication type - Systematic Review

Screenshots of this sample search below.

Epistemonikos advanced search builder view with example


Epistemonikos screen view of search results and filters


Epistemonikos results view with filters chosen and Export option


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