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How effective are antibiotics for treating patients with sore throat? The first choice of resource for the practitioner to answer a clinical effectiveness question such as this one should be a systematic review. By systematically searching, assessing, and summarising the research evidence by using rigorous methods, the best systematic reviews present a time saving distillation of the current state of knowledge. The number of systematic reviews has been growing and continues to grow rapidly. This growth has fortunately been accompanied by efforts to identify, collect, and present reviews in easy to access collections. This editorial presents a strategy for searching for systematic reviews of effectiveness by using a selection of the best of these collections.
The Cochrane Library
The first stage, and often the only necessary stage, in finding an up to date systematic review of the effects of health care interventions is to search the Cochrane Library.1 The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) in the Cochrane Library contains a unique, cumulative collection of full text systematic reviews that are valuable not only for their rigorous methods but also for their regular updates, which occur as new research evidence is published and in response to valid criticisms. If searchers are unable to find an up to date Cochrane review in the CDSR on their topic of interest, the Cochrane Library has summaries of other quality assessed reviews (including reviews of diagnostic tests) in the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness (DARE) and abstracts of technology assessments in the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) database. An initial search of the Cochrane Library can save much time and effort in searching other resources. Non-subscribers to the full Cochrane Library can search abstracts of Cochrane reviews together with DARE and HTA database records free on the NHS Centre for Reviews …