What are Clinical Trials?

Use this guide to help locate published or unpublished clinical trials in health sciences. For exhaustive searching there is always the possibility of including other databases or searching in other languages and countries of origin.

The resources in this guide may be relevant to both randomized (RCT's) and non-randomized trials, community trials, and various phases of trials.

Definition of a clinical trial

  • 'A research activity that involves the administration of a test regimen to humans to evaluate its eficacy and safety.' (Last JM, International Epidemiological Association. A dictionary of epidemiology. i31366284 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press; 2001)
  • See also Bandolier Glossary

Published Trials Through the UQ Library

Subscription Database Access

You can search for published trials using bibliographic literature databases. The following databases, which may have references to clinical trials, are available via the UQ Library's Databases page.

Contact Your Liaison Librarian for expert assistance in searching the databases.

  • Cochrane Collaboration (Organization)
    Includes Cochrane Central Registrar of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL)
    CENTRAL is the Cochrane Collaboration's register of controlled trials. The register provides bibliographic information (i.e. abstracts rather than full-text) on over 415,000 reports of trials identified by contributors to the Cochrane Collaboration. CENTRAL provides individual reviewers with easy and reliable access to the maximum possible number of trials relevant to their review topic. Trials are identified from multiple sources, including searches of bibliographic databases, handsearches of many hundreds of journals and conference proceedings, and searches of other trial registers. Since the overriding aim is to create an unbiased source of data for systematic reviews, all known controlled trials are included in CENTRAL irrespective of language of publication or where and when the studies were conducted.
  • Ovid Medline
    Combine search with the following terms: Randomized controlled trial.pt or clinical trial.pt. Then combine this last set with your search topic set using and.
  • PLoS Clinical Trials
    PLoS Clinical Trials (eISSN 1555-5887) is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS). Launched in March 2006.
  • PubMed
    From the PubMed Services menu: Choose Clinical Queries. Then select therapy and narrow, specific search.
  • Biosis Previews
    May contain pre-clinical or laboratory trials
  • Web of Science
  • EMBASE.com
  • CINAHL
  • PEDro, the physiotherapy evidence database

UQ Library Catalogue

To learn more about clinical trials you can search the UQ Library catalogue using the Subject Heading 'Clinical Trials'.

Trial Registries - Protocols

These registries list protocols of clinical trials. They can be searched to identify trials at various stages from registration of protocol to completion, and which might not necessarily ever be published or indexed in databases.

Sponsored Trial Data Publications

US Food and Drug Administration posts selected review documents for new drug approvals on its Web site.

Pharmaceutical company web sites

Unpublished Trial Data Publications

  • Contact Drug companies & research organisations.
  • Search web for 'grey literature'. The search term 'grey literature' will lead to sites that collect and make available links to this unpublished material, for example institutional reports, research papers etc.

Patents Applications

The UQ Library can provide help:

  • Derwent Innovations Index, (the world's most comprehensive database of patents information) is available via UQ Library's Database page
  • The UQ Library has produced a "How-to" guide for finding Patents

Policy Statements and Guidelines for Registration of Trials

Checklists for Reporting of Clinical Trials

Validity of Clinical Trials

A number of checklists are available to assist with assessment of validity of clinical trials.

Registers of Other Study Types