How to ... Search the Cochrane Library

The Cochrane Library is part of the Journals and Databases collection of resources on NHS Evidence. To search the Cochrane Library go to and click on the link to Journals and Databases:

From the Journals and Databases page, click on the link to The Cochrane Library. You do not need an Athens account to search the Cochrane Library.

The Cochrane Library is a collection of seven different databases including the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Cochrane Reviews), the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (Other Reviews), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Clinical Trials, or CENTRAL), the Cochrane Methodology Register (Methods Studies), the Health Technology Assessment Database (Technology Assessments), and the NHS Economic Evaluation Database (Economic Evaluations).

There are several options to browse and search the Cochrane Library:

1. Browse by topic or review

The options for browsing in the Cochrane Library are listed on the left-hand side of the homepage. You can browse for Cochrane Reviews by Topic, New Reviews, Updated Reviews, A-Z alphabetical sort and Review Group.
To browse within the other databases (except Clinical Trials), click on the name of the database listed under Browse Other Resources.

2. Simple Search

Simple searches can be performed by entering search terms in the search box to the top left of the screen (see below). Searches can be restricted to words in title, author, etc by using the drop-down menu headed Title, Abstract or Keywords.
Click on Go to perform the search.

Search results are displayed by database, with Cochrane Reviews being listed first. Click on the title of a search result to see the full text. For more complicated searches use the Advanced Search option.

3. Advanced Search

To use the advanced search option click on the link to Advanced Search below the search box. Enter your search terms into the search boxes as shown below:

Use the drop-down menus on the right to restrict terms to a field, for example, the title. Use the drop-down menus on the left to change how terms are combined.
Click on Search to start the search.

MeSH Searching

MeSH searching is an advanced search technique that uses subject headings drawn from the National Library of Medicine’s MeSH Thesaurus to perform an accurate and comprehensive search on a topic. Using MeSH search terms alongside a keyword search will help to improve the precision and relevance of your search results. To search using MeSH terms, select the MeSH Search option from the Advanced Search page:

Enter a term in the search box and click on Go To Mesh Trees

If a MeSH term is available it will appear in a hierarchical tree. Click on View Results to start the search. The results of your search will appear on screen.

Using Search History

You can combine a MeSH search with other MeSH or keyword searches by using the Search History feature.
On the search results page you will find a link to Search History at the top right of the screen, in the search navigation bar.
Click on the link to view the Search History options:

Search History is also listed under Advanced Search options:

Search History will save a list of all your previous searches. To combine different search results type the search ID numbers into the search box e.g. #1 and #2 and click on Go:

Viewing your search results

Search results are displayed in order of relevance to your topic. You change this to list by alphabetical order or by year.
To view a record from a list of search results, click on its title. When viewing a Cochrane Review the abstract of the review will be displayed with tabs containing other parts of the review across the top. Links are provided to the full text review article in both HTML and PDF file.