Asthma Management Handbook

Literature searches for systematic reviews

For each of the clinical questions, the research assistant:

  • identified the relevant population(s), intervention(s) (or exposure), comparator(s) and outcome(s)
  • developed a search strategy, in consultation with a clinical expert from the relevant working group
  • ran literature searches in multiple databases (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects)
  • applied the inclusion and exclusion criteria.

For each study identified, the research assistant assessed the level of evidence using NHMRC levels of evidence1 and appraised the methodological quality using criteria developed a priori according to study design. Each study was allocated a risk of bias rating using a template developed by the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation for systematic reviews and randomised control trials2 and the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for cohort studies.3

Search findings were summarised in a report to the working group, which identified the reference, year, country, type of study (study design and evidence level), intervention and comparator, population, study description, outcome measures, results and comments on study quality or conclusions. If one or more systematic reviews were identified for a clinical question, the research assistant flagged individual studies identified by the Australian Asthma Handbook literature searches that had been included in those systematic reviews.

The research assistant updated the searches before each working group met to formulate recommendations based on the systematic review.


  1. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). NHMRC additional levels of evidence and grades for recommendations for developers of guidelines. NHMRC, Canberra, 2009. Available from:
  2. Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation (MCHRI) - Monash University and Monash Health. Evidence Synthesis Program templates for critical appraisal and risk of bias (adapted from Critical Appraisal Templates, Centre for Clinical Effectiveness, Southern Health, Melbourne, 2010). MCHRI - Monash University and Monash Health, Melbourne, 2013.
  3. Wells GA, Shea B, O’Connell D, et al. The Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS) for assessing the quality of non-randomised studies in meta-analyses. Ottawa Health Research Institute, Ottawa, 1999. Available from: