Systematic reviews need systematic searches

Ottawa Health Research Institute/Institute of Population Health University of Ottawa Ottawa K1N 6N5 Canada.
Journal of the Medical Library Association JMLA (Impact Factor: 0.99). 02/2005; 93(1):74-80.
Source: PubMed


This paper will provide a description of the methods, skills, and knowledge of expert searchers working on systematic review teams.
Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are very important to health care practitioners, who need to keep abreast of the medical literature and make informed decisions. Searching is a critical part of conducting these systematic reviews, as errors made in the search process potentially result in a biased or otherwise incomplete evidence base for the review. Searches for systematic reviews need to be constructed to maximize recall and deal effectively with a number of potentially biasing factors. Librarians who conduct the searches for systematic reviews must be experts.
Expert searchers need to understand the specifics about data structure and functions of bibliographic and specialized databases, as well as the technical and methodological issues of searching. Search methodology must be based on research about retrieval practices, and it is vital that expert searchers keep informed about, advocate for, and, moreover, conduct research in information retrieval. Expert searchers are an important part of the systematic review team, crucial throughout the review process-from the development of the proposal and research question to publication.

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Available from: Jessie Mcgowan
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    • "Methodological procedures considering the standards for systematic reviews according to the PRISMA statement were employed (Moher et al., 2009). Expert researchers conducted the process to fulfil the suggestions and guidelines, such as (McGowan and Sampson, 2005) (i) the need of transparency (readers should be able to verify that the review is not open to bias) and (ii) reproducibility (readers and other researchers should be able to replicate the methods and arrive at the same results). A search was conducted of literature dating from January 1st of 1970 until December 31th of 2013 using electronic literature databases (PubMed, ISI Web of Knowledge, Index Medicus, MEDLINE, Scopus, SPORTDiscus). "
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    • "Most guides to searching effectively in online bibliographic databases are user guides written by librarians for their patrons; these focus on using and understanding the different databases, and general searching principles. Sampson and McGowan (2005) wrote of librarians testing their retrieved sets, stating: " the librarian must have the expertise to develop test strategies to verify the performance of terms and elements of the search, adjusting or abandoning nonperforming elements. Often these tests rely on comparison against a strategy from a previously published review or the recall of a set of key references supplied by subject experts. "

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    • "Successful search strategy design involves knowledge of databases, indexing and database structures. Hence, successful search strategies typically involve experienced information specialists (McGowan and Sampson, 2005). Many academic libraries (such as those affiliated with veterinary colleges) have librarians with specialized training in systematic review search strategies. "
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