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Cochrane Library: updates and new features

Posted on 24th August 2020 by


Recently, the Cochrane Library has added new features and updated others. I found these updates very useful, and thus, in this blog, I will summarise the features I feel are most important using step-by-step visual illustration.


The features I will cover are:

  1. Search by Clinical Answers
  2. Search by PICO
  3. Access all content in a single bar
  4. Mobile-friendly content display
  5. Email alerts

Search by Clinical Answers

Cochrane Clinical Answers are written by clinicians for clinicians. The feature provides a summary of systematic reviews. Instead of reading an average of twenty pages, you will get a one-page overview making it more effective and efficient to extract the required information. For the sake of illustration, I typed the word “caries” in the search bar and clicked the ‘search’ button.

The following images demonstrate how one could access this feature.

Screenshot of Cochrane Clinical Answers. Step 1: Type the word you're searching for and click search. Step 2: Click on the Clinical Answers tab. This will then show you all the results.

Results of Cochrane Clinical Answers search. The question and clinical answer are presented on this page. This is a one page summary. There is a comparisons header showing at the bottom of this image.

In case one seeks additional information, the ‘Comparisons’ icon, found at the bottom of the same page, will provide an interactive hierarchical display of information. These are the population, intervention, comparisons and outcomes (PICO), as demonstrated below:

Comparisons. This shows 3 different outcomes you can click on and expend, plus population, intervention and comparator information.

Search by PICO

Another convenient update is the PICO search. This feature enables you to acquire more detailed information that closely aligns with your research or clinical question, whether it is by the population, the intervention, the comparison or by the outcome. The search by the quality of life (QoL) will soon be added.

First, you click on the ‘Advanced search’ button, then click on the ‘PICO search’ tab. Enter the keyword you are looking for in the box which says ‘Enter a search term’. A list of suggestions will appear on a dropdown menu where you can choose the term closely matching yours. You then have the option of selecting the type of results you are seeking (e.g. Population) then click ‘Run search’, as illustrated in the next images:

Showing how to access the Cochrane PICO search. Enter the search term into the search box and click on the advanced search button.

Showing how to access the information on the PICO Search. Click on the PICO Search tab, type in your topic into the PICO search term box (this needs to fit with a preset term within the system). Choose the type of PICO search you want and then click on the run search button.

The following page will appear, at which point you would click on ‘Show all PICOs’. All the results will be revealed with the main title, and sections of the PICO related to the topic you have chosen. Additional information about the search will be available for you to access in the far-left column, as seen below:

Showing results of PICO search and the option to show all PICO information and also refine what you are looking for in the side bar

As you probably noticed, the PICO search is still a ‘BETA’ version which means it is still being tested. Cochrane are encouraging everyone that uses it to provide feedback and evaluate the service.

Example of the first page of the PICO search BETA feedback form

Access all content in a single bar

Another convenient feature is accessing all content with a single search. Once you have carried out a search, the content, accessed via separate tabs, includes: Cochrane reviews, Cochrane protocols, Trials, Editorials, Special Collections, Clinical Answers and Other Reviews, as seen below:

Showing multiple tabs which are accessible once carried out a search on the Cochrane Library

The last two features are minor, yet I found them very helpful, especially for a busy researcher.

Mobile-friendly content display

The first is that the e-library page has become suitable for mobile and small screens, shown in the below screenshot from a mobile device. Many of us are busy, and sometimes mobile access is the easiest way to access information.

Screenshot from mobile friendly content page

Email alerts

The second minor change is email alerts. At the bottom of the Library homepage, alongside the ‘Browse by Topic’ section, you can click on ‘Set email alerts’, as demonstrated in the image below. You will then be given the option to choose the topics you wish to be notified of – this can be general topics, or more specific. You will then be notified of any updates on your chosen topic(s).

Screenshot of where to click to set up email alerts on the Cochrane Library.

This was a small summary of the recent changes I have found most useful. I hope it was helpful to you.

More details regarding new features and updates can be found via the following resources:

Cochrane Library – Performing Efficient and Effective Searches (Online webinar run by Wiley. Please note, this requires a login)

What’s new in the Cochrane Library 2020 (Online interactive or PDF documents by Wiley)

Cochrane Library: what’s new and release notes

Feature image bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels


Hasan Jamal

I'm a postgraduate student currently undertaking a clinical doctorate program in Paediatric Dentistry at University College London. I had a masters degree in Biomaterials from Queen Mary University and a masters degree in Regenerative Dentistry from King's College London. I'm excited to use Students 4 BestEvidance platform to share the little that I know and what I found helpful during my studies. View more posts from Hasan

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