Reporting systematic review strategies

tablet-blister-2-1307761-mA group of medical librarians (including yours truly) have been meeting once a month after work to discuss an article of interest. This is a very informal group which has just got off the ground, but we are all having a good time so far.

The article we discussed last month was Golder S, Lake, Y.K, Zorzela L. Comparison of search strategies in systematic reviews of adverse effects to other systematic reviews. Health Information & Libraries Journal 31(2) 92-105. The main points of the article is reporting of search strategies needs to improve. Having more librarians on board will help to achieve this goal. This survey found that only 9% of librarians were involved. Compared to other systematic reviews, reviews of adverse effects searched a range of databases including Medline. What is concerning though is that surveys of other reviews found that 56% of reviews only searched Medline. This is very concerning. This might be for a number of reasons: cost, access, or expertise. The most popular databases to search are free to search. These databases (not including Medline) are: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (paid for by govt in some countries), Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness (free via the CRD), FDA website (free), the internet (free but type of browser not mentioned), citation searches (some free) and (free).

We talked about floating subheadings (I remember learning about them when an undergrad), which allows you to pair a subheading with a subject that doesn’t include the subheading you want to use. This is useful in looking for reports of adverse effects, but could bring up lots of other unrelated reports. One of the librarians showed us a form she uses for systematic reviews. It included the strategy (plus database name and platform used), total numbers and numbers after deduplication, plus a flowchart. Very nice and something I’d like to use in my own practice. We also talked about a blog called PubMed Search Strategies (a blog for sharing strategies), which is a very useful resource, especially if you find a good strategy for a topic you are searching for – no reinventing the wheel!

We might not meet next month because next week is the two workshops led by Julie Glanville, and then there is the holidays. My next post will be writing about those workshops.


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