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The Cochrane Library: Cracking Cochrane!

Posted on 28th May 2013 by

Learning Resources
cochrane library


The Cochrane Library [1] site is aimed at health care professionals looking for reviews of evidence on a variety of topics ranging from anaesthetics, to neonatal care and wounds. The reviews are all written to a minimum, high standard and provide conclusions in technical and plain language allowing health care professionals and the public to gain an understanding of the work and what was found.

What is it all about?

While there are a large number of reviews on the site, each itself is of a significant size, reflecting the sheer amount of work that goes into each review. Depending of the level of detail that you may wish to go into each review or protocol may take a significant period of time to read in full. The site designers are aware of this and as a result provide a brief summary of the work, inclusion and exclusion criteria, an author’s and plain language summary, to name but a few, on the first page encountered when the review is selected. The site, as well as providing a search engine for reviews also provides links to other services such as journal clubs, pod casts and editorials. Each taking a varying amount of time to listen to or read.

The work of the Cochrane Library as a whole cannot be described as anything less than astounding. The high calibre of work is evident and the evidence through and up to date at the time of publication. At times the site appears a little confused with a search engine box as well as a link, albeit rather small, to ‘New Search Tools’, however, the number of different ways available in which to find a paper (be it through title, author, date of publication, DOI) renders the problem of which search box to use moot, as you will, inevitably find the review you are looking for. While this writer comes from the UK, and is able to access all of the reviews for free, this is not the case for those from other countries meaning that there is an associated cost to read the reviews in full. When using the search engine on the home-page auto-complete does not appear to work until you have pressed enter to search the term, while a minor point, any problems that may be encountered in terms of spelling difficulties are rectified by the ‘Did you mean…’ on the next page.

It’s not just reviews

The synthesis on the site of editorials, podcasts and reviews illustrates the true scope and nature of the work of the Cochrane library and provide the reader with a chance to widen their knowledge through the discussion of papers in the journal clubs and to listen at leisure to the podcasts be it on the computer or downloaded to mobile device. The links to these alternative media sources are easily identifiable through tiny Mp3 players by the appropriate article; The site also has an app for i-pads. Unfortunately there does not appear to be one for those electronic devices that use the android system. Some other links, however, are quite small meaning that in order to listen to podcasts or join discussion in the journal clubs, one needs a keen eye to identify the links.

Overall the site is easily navigable to search for the high quality reviews that the medical community know and expect from the Cochrane Library. The site encompasses not only systematic reviews but editorials, podcasts and even the opportunity to join in on the journal clubs. It is an essential resource for any health care provider when questioning the best and appropriate management plan for their patients.



[1] The Cochrane Library [Internet]. Cochrane Collaboration, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd ; Copyright 2013 [cited 28 May 2013]. Available from: http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/view/0/index.html


Lucy Homer

Hi, I'm Lucy and am currently a medical student from the University of Liverpool, UK. I am currently intercalating in a Masters of Research in Clinical Science, before my final year of medicine, and hope to go on to an academic foundation year job after I graduate. View more posts from Lucy

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