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Cochrane Library: Getting Started

Subjects: Medicine

Purpose of this guide

This guide is intended for students or researchers studying Clinical medicine at the University of Oxford, although students from any field may find it useful.

Use this guide to find out about the Cochrane Library online resource.

Need any help?

The Cochrane Library has produced a range of guides to help you use this resource. Hover over Help in their main menu bar for further instructions.

Training sessions

Contact us at to arrange small group or one-to-one training sessions in our libraries or at a location to suit you.

Bodleian iSkills

Bodleian iSkills is a series of free workshops designed to help you make effective use of scholarly publications and other materials in print and online. The sessions cover searching for scholarly materials, reference management, keeping up to date, measuring impact, and submitting your thesis to the Oxford Research Archive.

Mesh terms

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH terms) are assigned to many records. These are controlled index terms and can be very effective in searching. You can use MeSH terms in place of, or as well as free-text terms to search.

  • Click on MeSH search, and enter a term in the search box Search for a MeSH Descriptor.
  • Click on GO to MeSH Trees or click on Thesaurus.
  • Select a term, this will bring up the option 'Search the Cochrane Library content'.
  • Choose your preferred selection criteria and click on View results.

Citing Cochrane Systematic Reviews

Click on record title to see the details of the review. Under Additional Information, click on How to Cite.

Saving search strategies/ exporting citations

  • From the search screen click Register in the top right corner. 
  • Complete the Registration form.
  • Next time, use the Login option on the top right hand side.
  • When you obtain your results click on Save search.
  • From your search results you can export selected or all citations to a separate file.

Getting started with the Cochrane Library

The Cochrane Library is an online source of evidence on the effectiveness of a wide range of health care interventions. Its content comprises full text Cochrane systematic reviews published online, structured abstracts of other systematic reviews published in medical and health journals, and a register of controlled clinical trials. These are located in separate databases which are searched simultaneously.

The content is updated online every three months to incorporate completely new systematic reviews, updates of existing reviews and withdrawal of obsolete reviews.

Go to, this is the website for The Cochrane Collaboration. Click on the link to the Cochrane Library, this will take you to the most recent electronic issue of the database.

Simple searches

From the Cochrane Library:

  • Enter a term or terms e.g. asthma and child, in the search box at the top right of the screen and click Go.
  • All the different databases are searched simultaneously: Cochrane Reviews, Other Reviews, Clinical Trials, Methods Studies, Technology Assessments and Economic Evaluations. The number of results are shown next to each database name. Browse the results and click on the title to access the abstract and a link through to the full text PDF.
  • Simple search defaults to searching in Title, Abstract or Keywords. If you get too many results, restrict the search to the title field only by selecting Record Title from the drop down menu to the left of the search box.

Advanced searches

  • This search form gives you more flexibility in formulating your search to look for matches for your terms in specific fields (for example Author) and to combine search terms using AND/OR/NOT.

Search tips

  • If you want to search for a phrase, enter it with quotes, for example "colon cancer", otherwise the words will be searched as colon AND cancer which may give irrelevant results.
  • Plurals are automatically searched, child will also find children.
  • Truncate terms at either end of a word by typing in an asterisk symbol.
  • Typing NEAR between search terms can be used instead of AND to narrow your search, for example smoking NEAR pregnancy will find the two words within six words of each other in either order, so is more specific than using AND. If you need to, you can specify the number of words apart, for example NEAR/4.
  • Use the Search history link to trace back all your search steps. They can be combined using AND/OR, for example #3 AND #7.
  • There are more useful search tips listed under Search help.

Cairns Library

Find us: John Radcliffe Hospital

Contact us: 01865 221936 or

Knowledge Centre

Find us: Old Road Campus Research Building

Contact us: 01865 225815 or

Horton Library

Find us: Horton General Hospital

Contact us: 01295 229316

Girdlestone Memorial (NOC) Library

Find us: Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre

Contact us: 01865 738147


Radcliffe Science Library