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ACAP Library Pathfinder: Systematic Searching for a Review

This guide provides a methodology for planning and creating a multi-database search strategy for students who are writing a review.

Examples & Instructional Videos

Search Method

The PICO(T/S) criteria were used to formulate the search criteria for the following research question:

For adolescents, how do educational programs compare to individual therapies to reduce the negative mental health effects of cyberbullying in secondary schools?

The databases searched include EbscoHost (APA PsycInfo, Academic Search Complete, Business Source Ultimate, APA PsycArticles, SocINDEX with Full Text, APA PsycBooks), PubMed, Elsevier (Science Direct), Sage Psychology, and ProQuest Psychology. Other options for this topic could include Educational Resource Information Center (ERIC), Taylor & Francis, or Informit (Health). Google Scholar could also be applied to facilitate citation searching. 

Date and language limiters were not used in the examples. However, Title, Abstract, and Subject search filters were applied to search terms where available. Where they are not available, an Any Field option is used in their place.  Some databases such as Science Direct do not allow for a flexible application of search fields and limiters and the search strategy has been adjusted accordingly. 

Sets of key terms used in the examples include: 

1. Title field: cyberbull* OR cybervictim* OR anti-cyberbullying OR e-bullying


1a. Title field: (harassment OR bully* victim* OR aggression OR violence OR mobbing OR troll* ) AND ( cyber OR online OR "social media" OR "social networking" OR virtual OR digital OR internet OR Facebook OR Twitter OR tiktok OR Instagram OR smartphone OR phone OR text OR sms) 


2. Title/Subject/Abstract fields: adolesc* OR teen* OR "young adults" OR youth OR students OR juvenile*


3. Title/Subject/Abstract fields: psychoeducation* OR program OR intervention OR curricul* OR training OR initiative OR school OR education* OR classroom OR instruction OR learning OR teach* OR project OR plan

Comparison option: Title field: therap* OR psychotherap* OR counsel* OR "acceptance and commitment therapy" OR ACT OR "cognitive behav* therapy" OR CBT 


4. Title/Subject/Abstract fields: "mental health" OR wellbeing OR well-being OR "self esteem" OR trauma* OR suicid* OR "academic achievement" OR loneliness OR isolation OR truancy OR anger OR confidence OR anxiety OR depression OR "psychological impact"


5. Title/Subject/Abstract fields: benefit* OR alleviate* OR improv* OR reduc* OR prevent* OR effectiv* OR efficacy OR evidence OR impact OR evaluat*

Scoping, Preliminary & Citation Searching

Scoping and Preliminary Searches

Learn how to run a scoping search for Gold Set articles and a preliminary search for other review articles.

Citation Searching

Learn how to use saved articles, controlled vocabularies and search filters to improve search strategies.

Systematically Search Academic Databases

Watch a librarian conduct a complex search in a few of the key databases available from the library's A-Z databases page. 

EbscoHost Databases

Learn how to run, test and save a full and final search strategy in EbscoHost Databases.


View a similar strategy in PubMed. Consider also watching Use MeSH to build a better PubMed Query.