Function to search among the existing datasets.

datsearch(pattern, concept=TRUE, matchall=TRUE, fixed=TRUE, pkgdown=FALSE)



character string or vector of strings specifying the terms to search for within the datasets. Can also be left unspecified to start the function in an interactive mode.


logical indicating whether the search should be confined to the concept terms (TRUE by default) or whether a full-text search should be conducted.


logical indicating whether only the datasets matching all terms (if multiple are specified) are returned (TRUE by default) or whether datasets matching any one of the terms are returned.


logical indicating whether a term is a string to be matched as is (TRUE by default). If FALSE, a search term is a regular expression that grep will search for. Only relevant when concept=FALSE (i.e., when doing a full-text search).


logical indicating whether the standard help file or the pkgdown docs (at should be shown for a chosen dataset (FALSE by default).


The function can be used to search all existing datasets in the metadat package based on their concept terms (see below) or based on a full-text search of their corresponding help files.

When running datsearch() without the pattern argument specified, the function starts in an interactive mode and prompts for one or multiple search terms.

Alternatively, one can specify a single search term via the pattern argument or multiple search terms by using a string vector as the pattern or by separating multiple search terms in a single string with ‘,’, ‘;’, or ‘and’.

If matchall=TRUE (the default), only datasets matching all search terms (if multiple are specified) are returned. If matchall=FALSE, datasets matching any one of the search terms are returned.

If a single match is found, the corresponding help file is directly shown. If multiple matches are found, the user is prompted to choose one of the matching datasets of interest.

Concept Terms

Each dataset is tagged with one or multiple concept terms that refer to various aspects of a dataset, such as the field/topic of research, the outcome measure used for the analysis, the model(s) used for analyzing the data, and the methods/concepts that can be illustrated with the dataset.

  • In terms of ‘fields/topics’, the following terms have been used at least once: alternative medicine, attraction, cardiology, climate change, covid-19, criminology, dentistry, ecology, education, engineering, epidemiology, evolution, genetics, human factors, medicine, memory, obstetrics, oncology, persuasion, physics, primary care, psychiatry, psychology, smoking, social work, sociology.

  • In terms of ‘outcome measures’, the following terms have been used at least once: correlation coefficients, Cronbach's alpha, hazard ratios, incidence rates, raw mean differences, odds ratios, proportions, ratios of means, raw means, risk differences, risk ratios, (semi-)partial correlations, standardized mean changes, standardized mean differences.

  • In terms of ‘models/methods/concepts’, the following terms have been used at least once: cluster-robust inference, component network meta-analysis, cumulative meta-analysis, diagnostic accuracy studies, dose response models, generalized linear models, longitudinal models, Mantel-Haenszel method, meta-regression, model checks, multilevel models, multivariate models, network meta-analysis, outliers, Peto's method, phylogeny, publication bias, reliability generalization, single-arm studies, spatial correlation.


Daniel Noble,
Wolfgang Viechtbauer,


# note: the examples below are not run since they require interactivity

if (FALSE) {

   # start the function in the interactive mode

   # find all datasets tagged with the concept term 'standardized mean differences'
   datsearch("standardized mean differences")

   # find all datasets tagged with the concept terms 'odds ratio' and 'multilevel'
   datsearch("odds ratio, multilevel")

   # do a full-text search for the term 'infarct'
   datsearch("infarct", concept=FALSE)

   # do a full-text search for '' (essentially finds all datasets where
   # the function was used in the examples section of a help file)
   datsearch("", concept=FALSE)