Category Archives: Conferences

EAHIL2015: Improving Efficiency and Confidence in Systematic Literature Searching

Are there any shortcuts in creating search strategies to collect information for systematic reviews? Wichor Bramer advocates using MS Word macros to translate strategies from one database to another. We had a go at creating one during this workshop but – and this is the only downside to Wichor and Gerdien’s workshop – there wasn’t enough time to experiment. Once you get it done, it ends up as a search paragraph that only needs minor editing. For example, if you start in EMBASE first, you have to add TI and AB for Medline in EBSCOHost. Another example is if you have adjacency numbers, you have to edit them according to what interface you are using (NEAR/3 in EMBASE is really 2 words whereas in EBSCOHost N3 is 3 words) etc. So much easier than copying and pasting it line by line. How do you do it? For ease of process, always start with a single database (they recommend Then in a word doc, write ( )  and within the parenthesis ‘ ‘ /exp, then your desired thesaurus term and the staying within the parenthesis, ( ):ab,ti . It will take me a lot of practice! Full details in the handout: [Improving efficiency & confidence in systematic literature searching]. There is a slight error in the handout though – DE is only used in PsycINFO for non-major subjects. All other subjects in EBSCOHost use MH. Wichor’s team have made the macros they use available online. Download and installation instructions are given in the handout.

This isn’t advocating speed (though you do speed up naturally the longer your acquaintances with databases) – care and thought still needs to be put into developing the search strategy. I learnt some useful tips: use truncation in PubMed MeSH database (I don’t know why I didn’t think of trying this!), not out individual thesaurus terms per element to see if any relevant articles appear (and check what thesaurus terms relevant articles use) – vice versa for title/abstract terms (also scan relevant article abstracts for terms not used in the title/abstract), and use floating subheadings with thesaurus terms to increase specificity. Wichor also mentioned that including adjectives in the search query could introduce bias eg harsh parenting. I hadn’t thought of it in that way before, but I have thought that using them, especially in the Outcomes section of PICO, may restrict results unnecessarily. How many people use those sorts of terms in an abstract?

I’m glad I was able to attend this workshop – thank you Wichor and the team at Erasmus MC.

30.06.15 Update: Wichor has updated the handout and the corrected version is here.

EAHIL2015: Create a Great Poster


This is great

How many times have you ended up with an aching back after continuously bending to read the bottom of posters at conferences? This is not a problem I’ve had but I realised after this session that I avoided looking at posters for too long to avoid this very problem. And that is what this session had as an icebreaker – what problems do you have with posters? This icebreaker focused on design problems though – and there are lots of these too. How do you fit all the information you want to have on your poster? Where do you put graphics and text? What about colours, fonts, graphs etc? Why create one anyway?

Look at the title of this one

Look at the title of this one

There are lots of good things about posters. You can revisit them and you don’t have to talk to the creator if you don’t want to. If you are a creator, it is a good way to share research to a wide audience. They can transcend language barriers, are good at presenting ideas in different ways and you can also have a printout for the viewer to take away. It can act as a teaser to a future paper and if you have one already  or a website, screencast or podcast, you can add a QR code to it so the viewer could, if they wanted to, go straight to that for more information.

A good one ..

A good one ..

A good poster is one with inclusive design. A good poster is easy for dyslexics and people with colour or vision disabilities to make sense of, easy for people with bad backs or knees to read (don’t put text on the bottom!), and has a reading flow that makes it easy for people who read right-left and left-right to navigate. There are some basic design tips to remember: use sans serif fonts – (and don’t mix them!), the header should be as large as possible for contrast with rest of the text, punchy headings draw in the audience, balance space and information, visuals should complement the text, don’t use acronyms unless the audience knows what it refers to (I guess MeSH is a good example of an acronym lots of medical librarians recognise whereas RMH, the acronym of my workplace, is not), bar charts are more immediately understandable than pie charts, and make sure your poster is understandable from a distance. Finally – remember to follow the conference poster guidelines!

Better but for the title size

Better but for the title size

Our attempt ...

Our attempt …

We all got the chance to feel like kids again when we worked in groups creating a poster (cutting and pasting pictures from magazines onto butcher paper) and had fun with the mini poster presentations. We all got a great handout [Create a Great Poster] with tips and were pointed to some useful resources to use when choosing palettes, contrast, and designing materials to suit people who are visual learners as well as people who are text readers. I’ve only created one poster (years ago now) and after this session, I am keen to try my hand at another.

ICLC15: Supporting & Conducting Research

How often are clinical questions answered when they arise during hospital shifts? Blair Anton and her team from Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins iclc_logoUniversity were interested in this question and conducted an observational study over 2 48hr periods in the persistence of clinical questions in a small 20-bed ICU. I was very interested to learn that many questions (mostly asked during rounds) were carried over from shift to shift before being answered and that 38% were never resolved. The resources used by health professionals were PubMed, Wikipedia and UpToDate (plus some others) and people were satisfied with the answers they obtained 2/3s of the time. This interesting piece of research has far-reaching implications for department/unit information service delivery. Not all departments would need such rapid turnaround as an ICU though. What are the question lifecycles like for other hospital departments?

Taken by Pip Divall

Thanks to Pip Divall for this snap of yours truly up on the lecture platform

Next up was my talk about the HLA Journal Club. Despite the massive microphone feedback 1/2 through, it went well and was well received. There interest from attendees about joining the online journal club and I promised I would find out what the HLA Executive thought. I have sounded them out about it and all that have replied to my query have been positive. We can open it up to international membership with possible assistance from EAHIL. Perhaps even have joint evidence summary publication! Stay tuned.

Gussun Gunes was due to talk next but due to technical difficulties, she had to do her talk later and we moved on to Steve Glover and Jo Whitcombe who recounted their experiences being involved in a Stillbirth Priority Setting Partnership. The library team was approached when the project was well underway so they had tight deadlines to meet (and this on top of their day to day work so they had to employ outside assistance). Why is it that information professionals are never consulted from the get go on projects like this? The good news is that with this work, the their team have been invited to work with other priority setting partnerships working in similar  subject areas and earlier too.  Back to the tight deadlines. After a survey of interested parties establishing what research questions they had around stillbirth, the library team found that they had to answer 261 questions in one month after question deduplication. The lit search team divided the questions up into broad topics and used Excel and Google Drive to track questions (+ time for billing purposes) and created a base search strategy that was shared amongst themselves. Many questions were not addressed by the literature. The final questions that the interested parties have agreed to focus on (along with other priority research questions) are now online.

Gussun Gunes with slides now located, talked about her work with nurse researchers. She presented a finished paper on which she is an author – very good to see! She is contacted by nurse researchers and works with them throughout the systematic review process and while doing this, she also trains them in various reviewing processes (deduplication using EndNote eg). The main problems she mentioned that nurse researchers face are lack of time, lack of database searching skills and inability to understand the research literature. Another pressing issue is the lack of local language resources plus the difficulties in searching these.

Next up was a 4thyr medical student project to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the clinical librarian service at Brighton NHS. The study period included 164 searches over a 12mth period for 5 hospital departments (the highest requester being the Neonatology dept). What I found interesting with this presentation was that no only does the CL service see repeat business from individuals and that 92% say they will use the service again, but that the searches themselves end up being used in multiple projects with differing impacts. This echos Blair Anton’s talk about the life cycle of a question but in this instance, when the question has been answered. I would be interested in how repeat questions are tackled. What if CLs undertook a priority setting exercise to determine repeat questions that their health services asked and run an evidence update service to address them? The other take away from this presentation (and echos Gussun’s talk) is that searching for answers can take longer than you think (this CL service averaged 219 mins per question with the range 10-960 mins).

The final presentation of the day was from Imrana Ghumra from Health Education England. HEE is working to transform knowledge services and wants to support librarians by developing competencies needed for workforce development (some of these developed from the HEALER research toolkit) and a national CPD training scheme. Extensive work and evidence have been collected to inform the development plan. You can have a look at these documents here: Knowledge for Healthcare: A Development Framework and the Library Services Briefing. The main point that Ghumara and the above documents repeat is that establishing and working in partnerships is essential.