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Research support toolkit (RSTK): 3: Conducting research

We know what we want to do - how do we do it?

Existing literature & evidence

Information on literature searching, systematic reviews, Cochrane, OAISTER, grey literature and critical appraisal.

Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is about finding evidence and using that evidence to make clinical decisions. A cornerstone of EBM is the hierarchical system of classifying evidence.

A literature search is a systematic, thorough search of all types of literature (e.g. peer reviewed articles, books, etc.) on your topic.

Systematic reviews are a type of literature review that uses systematic methods to collect secondary data, critically appraise research studies, and synthesize findings qualitatively or quantitatively. They are designed to provide a complete, exhaustive summary of current evidence relevant to a research question.

What is a systematic review?

The University of South Australia has developed an extensive library guide to assist those wishing to undertake a systematic review:

TheCochrane Libraryis a collection of six databases that contain different types of high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making, and a seventh database that provides information about Cochrane groups.

  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR)
    • TheCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR)is the leading resource for systematic reviews in health care.
  • Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL)
    • TheCochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL)is a highly concentrated source of reports of randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials. In addition to bibliographic details (author, title, source, year, etc) CENTRAL records often include an abstract (a summary of the article). They do not contain the full text of the article.
  • Cochrane Methodology Register (CMR)
    • TheCochrane Methodology Register (CMR)is a bibliography of publications that report on methods used in the conduct of controlled trials. It includes journal articles, books, and conference proceedings, and the content is sourced from MEDLINE and hand searches. CMR contains studies of methods used in reviews and more general methodological studies that could be relevant to anyone preparing systematic reviews. CMR records contain the title of the article, information on where it was published (bibliographic details), and, in some cases, a summary of the article. They do not contain the full text of the article.
  • Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE)
    • TheDatabase of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE)is the only database to contain abstracts of systematic reviews that have been quality-assessed. Each abstract includes a summary of the review together with a critical commentary about the overall quality.
  • Health Technology Assessment Database (HTA)
    • TheHealth Technology Assessment (HTA) Databasebrings together details of completed and ongoing health technology assessments (studies of the medical, social, ethical, and economic implications of healthcare interventions) from around the world. The aim of the HTA Database is to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care.
  • NHS Economic Evaluation Database (EED)
    • TheNHS Economic Evaluation Database (EED)assists decision-makers by systematically identifying economic evaluations from around the world, appraising their quality, and highlighting their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Get your hands on a wealth of videos, webinars, guides, and promotional material that can be printed out on demand for your library users. Please note that a one-time registration is needed.

Cochrane podcasts deliver the latest Cochrane evidence in an easy to access audio format, allowing you to stay up to date on newly published reviews wherever you are.

Cochrane Interactive Learning is an online course provides over 10 hours of self-directed learning on the complete systematic review process for both new and experienced review authors.

Covidence is a web-based tool that improves healthcare evidence synthesis by improving the efficiency and experience of creating and maintaining Systematic Reviews.

The CREBP Systematic Review Accelerator (SR Accelerator) is a purpose built to speed up multiple steps in the Systematic Review (SR) process. It is freely available for anyone in the world to use. Current tools are being continually reviewed and refined with additional tools being developed.

The IEBH SR-Accelerator is a suite of tools to speed up steps in the Systematic Review (SR) process. It is freely available for anyone in the world to use. The SRA is a modular design which means the tools can be incorporated into existing SR workflows and combined with other automation tools.

PRISMA is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Epistemonikos is a free database that is effective for locating systematic reviews in the biomedical field. While the database is more limited in content and lacks some of the features that paid databases like Embase and Scopus offer, Epistemonikos is a useful complementary tool for retrieving and analysing systematic reviews.

OAIster is a union catalog of millions of records that represent open access resources. This catalog was built through harvesting from open access collections worldwide using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Today, OAIster includes more than 50 million records that represent digital resources from more than 2,000 contributors.

CoCites uses scientific articles to find related articles. These scientific articles can be articles that you already know or that you found through simple best-guess keyword searches.

The CoCites browser plugin is free for Chrome browsers. It adds the CoCites logo for each scientific article in PubMed.

Grey literature is research that has not been published commercially and is therefore not necessarily searchable via the standard databases and search engines. Much grey literature is of high quality and can be an excellent source of up-to-date research in certain subject areas.

Elsevier DataSearch is a search engine that allows scientists and researchers to search for many different data types and formats across a variety of sources. The second Beta has been released with a plethora of exciting new features.

Research HelpYou can access Elsevier DataSearch here.

Gathering evidence

Information on clinical trials, survey research, collaboration, and research data curation.


The Guideline for Good Clinical Practice is an internationally accepted standard for the designing, conducting, recording and reporting of clinical trials.

Resources to support the undertaking of clinical trials.

Toolkit for Investigator-initiated clinical trials

The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) and the Melbourne Academic Centre for Health (MACH), with support from the Melbourne Children’s Trials Centre, have partnered on a project to deliver a new suite of resources for researchers conducting investigator-initiated trials (IITs).

This first release of the toolkit includes resources for risk management, monitoring and data management. Additional resources will be added to the toolkit in the coming months. Resources are exemplar standard operating procedures, guidelines and templates already available amongst the MACH and VCCC organisations chosen by working groups comprised of individuals from the MACH and VCCC partner organisations.

The aim is for the toolkit to serve as a launching pad for researchers working in investigator-initiated trials, giving them the tools and information they need to perform their role in accordance with regulatory requirements and best practice. It is also a useful resource for institutions, providing examples of standard operating procedures and guidelines that an institution should have in place to support its researchers.

The toolkit can be accessed here.

For more information or to provide feedback, contact Dr Kate Scarff.

Good clinical research practice

See also the Research supporttab for further information.

Surveys provide evidence on practice, attitudes, and knowledge. However, conducting good survey research is harder than it looks. The authors aim to provide guidance to both researchers and readers in conducting and interpreting survey research.

By reading this article, you should be able to: explain when to use thematic analysis, describe the steps in thematic analysis of interview data, and critique the quality of a study that uses the method of thematic analysis.

The ANZCA Clinical Trials Network (CTN) Executive mandates survey research on behalf of the college.

The Library of Guidance for Health Scientists (LIGHTS) is a new searchable database for methods guidance articles.

Research data management

Information on managing research data, FAIR data principles, data rights, data management tools and data assessment.

The FAIR Data Principles are a set of guiding principles in order to make data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.

FAIRsharing is a curated, informative and educational resource on data and metadata standards, inter-related to databases and data policies.

The Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) is an initiative that enables Australian research community and industry access to nationally significant, leading edge data intensive eInfrastructure, platforms, skills and collections of high-quality data.

The ResearchHub connects you with people, resources, and services from across the University to enhance and accelerate your research.

The Australian Reproducibility Network (AUS-RN) is a peer-led consortium that aims to ensure Australia retains its place as a centre for world-leading research, in particular by making research more reproducible.

A practical guide for people and organisations working with data about rights information and licences, and to raise awareness of the implications of not having licences on data.
REDCap is a secure web application for building and managing online surveys and databases.

Mendeley Data is an open research data repository, where researchers can upload and share their research data.

The Research Data Management Librarian Academy (RDMLA) is a free online professional development program for librarians, information professionals, or other professionals who work in a data-intensive environment throughout the world.

Collating the evidence

A basic understanding of the fundamentals of data types and the application of descriptive statistics

Confidence intervals and statistical significance.

Reporting the evidence

CONSORT(CONsolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials) encompasses various initiatives developed by the CONSORT Group to alleviate the problems arising from inadequate reporting of randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Ethics & governance

Information on ethical requirements (by country/state), risk management and regulatory compliance.

The NHMRC has certified a number of institutions to undertake a single ethics review for multi-centre studies. Jurisdictions participating in the National Mutual Acceptance scheme accept the ethics review by the certified human research ethics committee. Note: Currently available in Vic, NSW, QLD and SA

National Mutual Acceptance (NMA) is a national system for mutual acceptance of scientific and ethical review for multi-centre clinical trials conducted in publicly funded health services.

Each Australian state has an ethical review process and information is available from the State and Territory website links below:

ACT and NSW public health organisations have introduced REGIS for ethics and site-governance applications.

Researchers are now required to submit all New Research Applications and Post Approval Applications via the Ethics Review Manager (ERM) website - excluding Audit and Quality Improvement Applications and Clinical Database and Database Application Submissions.

Sites within Victoria are required to complete a Victorian Specific Module as part of every ethics application.
SA Health is committed to supporting the conduct of high quality health and medical research across the public health system.
The WA Research Governance Service (RGS) supports the research governance framework for all human research conducted within WA Health or accessing WA Health participants, their tissue or data. The RGS must be used to process all ethics and governance applications involving WA public health organisations.
The HRC is committed to ensuring that all research involving human participants is based on good science, meets ethical standards, and complies with international best practice.

This short course aims to provide the researcher with the basic principles of GCP and how these principles can be applied practically in the research setting. The course is aimed at all those involved in clinical research.

Risk management

The risk assessment process is a careful examination of what could cause harm, who/what could be harmed and how.

Compliance & regulations

ANZCA acknowledges the traditional custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises their unique cultural and spiritual relationships to the land, waters and seas and their rich contribution to society. We pay our respects to ancestors and Elders, past, present, and emerging.

ANZCA acknowledges and respects Māori as the Tangata Whenua of Aotearoa and is committed to upholding the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, fostering the college’s relationship with Māori, supporting Māori fellows and trainees, and striving to improve the health of Māori.