Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Pitt Rivers museum © Ian Wallman

We are in the process of completing a rapid (or restricted) realist review that is funded by UKRI/Arts and Humanities Research Council. It is addressing the question: Cultural institutions as social prescribing venues to improve older people’s well-being in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: What works, for whom, in what circumstances and why? It focuses on the role of public gardens, libraries and museums in particular. We have written about the background to the project in previous blogs, which are on our website.


In this blog, we give an overview of the search we undertook to locate documents to inform our rapid realist review. For this, we used the inclusion/exclusion criteria shown in table 1.


Table 1: Inclusion/exclusion criteria



  • About older people (60 years and older)
  • Includes data from older people, their relatives or carers, health professionals or other providers, or those working in the cultural sector
  • Addresses a community asset or activity that link workers are likely to refer on to
  • Focuses on museum, libraries and public gardens – as venues and as providers of activities/events
  • Centres on an element of personal well-being – might include things like depression, distress, anxiety, life satisfaction, family functioning, social support, social connections or isolation, self-efficacy, quality of life, self-esteem, self-worth and status, feeling useful and as if one belongs, confidence, having autonomy or agency



  • Not an English language publication
  • Published before 2000


Initial search for relevant papers

An information specialist (NR) conducted an initial search on CINAHL and EMBASE. It produced 830 references (after removing duplicates). We then asked her to conduct a search for systematic reviews of green spaces because we did not have much about this in the 830 references. She searched Cochrane databases, EMBASE and MEDLINE. This resulted in 92 references (after removing duplicates). We found a further 17 references from other sources - colleagues/experts and from a search conducted on Google (we looked at the first 100 hits). Searches were conducted during October-November 2020.

Two researchers (JG and ST) independently double screened 100 of the initial 830 references by title and abstract. Decisions were recorded on the computer programme Rayyan. Agreement was high about whether they met the inclusion criteria or not; they disagreed on two references. A single reviewer (JG) reviewed the remaining references. Most were excluded because they were not about the cultural sector, or about gardens, libraries or museums specifically, were not about older people, or did not refer to well-being. Figure 1 illustrates the flow of references from our primary search for relevant literature.



Further searches

Following this initial search and screening, another member of the team (SL) explored reports and grey literature, via the Repository for Arts and Health Resources (during January 2021). The purpose of the repository is to provide access to significant publications or contributions to the field of arts, health and well-being that are not found on major research databases. As such, it only houses grey literature (e.g. policy papers, reports and evaluations), and does not store peer reviewed journal articles. In addition, a colleague provided us with two further reports she thought might be relevant. One reviewer (SL) decided on whether these references met the inclusion criteria listed above; again decisions were recorded on Rayyan.

Figure 2 summarizes the process from initial references from this additional search to final ones included in the review. Similar to the primary search, the main reasons for excluding at this point was because items did not pertain to the cultural sector, or were not about gardens, libraries or museums specifically, were not about older people, or did not refer to well-being.