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Basics to conducting a literature search

Basics to conducting a literature search

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Basics to conducting a literature search

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  1. Basics to conducting a literature search Wiley D. Jenkins, PhD, MPH Director, Research and Program Development Family and Community Medicine September, 2008

  2. Introduction • This presentation is an introduction and guide to the basics of conducting a literature search. • Such searches are critical when preparing research papers or projects. • A good literature search ensures that the researcher is not duplicating work already done, and is also giving credit where it is due. • I have seen article reviews where the reviewer noted that a prominent study very pertinent to the topic was NOT noted or cited anywhere. • A good search helps indicate you know your topic and how it adds to the body of knowledge.

  3. Guiding principles • Admittedly, these are mine. You may/may not find them useful. 1. A good and thorough search takes a LOT of time. There is no way of getting around this. If you determine from the beginning that you are willing to put multiple hours into the process, it may help your mindset.

  4. Guiding principles (cont.) 2. A good and thorough search is best done by YOU. There are people and services that can assist in searches, but you (and co-investigators) are the one who knows the topic best. When sifting through 100s/1000s of articles and citations, your intimate knowledge of the subject and what you are trying to accomplish will assist in the identification of relevant articles.

  5. Guiding principles (cont.) 3. A good and thorough search is on-going. The time between project conception and publication will likely take a minimum of 12 months (and may take several years). Research on your topic by others occurs during this time. It is important to make sure that your submitted product is as up-to-date as can be reasonably expected.

  6. Starting point • We need an idea… • Simple enough, but we’ll need some specifics in order to narrow the search. • So, our topic might be a condition such as pheochromocytoma. • Some specifics (“key words”) might be: adults; children; genetics; radiation therapy; mortality; malignant • Knowing some of the important authors, or terms specific to your interest, will narrow the search • Our search will focus on risk factors associated with pheochromocytoma.

  7. Search engines • These are very useful and there are several to choose from. They have different capabilities and personal preference will determine which you are most comfortable with. • I am not a librarian and do not have a degree in library science, but I will discuss some aspects of the following: • PubMed • Cochrane • FirstSearch

  8. PubMed • PubMed provides access to citations from biomedical literature. • Free to anyone with a computer and accessible anywhere. • Limited full-text article access. • Let’s look up pheochromocytoma…

  9. PubMed - pheochromocytoma • Enter the term and click “Go” • Returns 15,652 articles and 1,560 reviews (not terribly helpful) • Searching for “pheo… risk factors” returns 99 articles and 31 reviews (much more manageable) • Can sort by date, author and journal • Scroll to an article that looks relevant and click to get the abstract. • There are Related Links to the right of the abstract. These are often relevant. • Clicking an author’s name pulls up all the articles by that author. • Iterative listing/searches by topic, Related Links and authors give a good overview of what is out there.

  10. correct AMA/Vancouver style citation Usually quite helpful

  11. Cochrane Library database • From the homepage: “The Cochrane Library contains high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making. It includes reliable evidence from Cochrane and other systematic reviews, clinical trials, and more.” • “The Cochrane Collaboration is an international non-profit and independent organization, dedicated to making up-to-date, accurate information about the effects of health care readily available worldwide.” • The thrust here is evidence-based information and reviews. Single research projects are unlikely to be here, but such things as reviews, meta-analyses and clinical trials will.

  12. Cochrane - pheochromocytoma • Enter the term and click “Go” • Results are divided into the following categories: • Cochrane Reviews [0] • Other Reviews [1] • Clinical Trials [54] • Methods Studies [0] • Technology Assessments [0] • Economic Evaluations [4] • Cochrane Groups [0] • Refining the search for “pheo… risk factors” produces only 2 clinical trials. • May not be useful for research, but very useful for diagnosis and treatment. Also useful if you’re considering clinical treatment research.

  13. FirstSearch • Search engine open to all topics and an incredible number of journals, book and other publications. • By far the widest-searching of the three engines reviewed here. • Especially useful for clinical research involving aspects not directly related to medicine (e.g. obesity interventions). • Provides electronic full-text article links such as the host institution has purchased access. • Allows searches by journal, author, title, keyword, date, etc.

  14. Can search by keyword, title, author, etc. Can limit date published

  15. FirstSearch - pheochromocytoma • Enter the term as keyword click “search” • Returns 1,902 articles under ArticleFirst. • Same search with “Limit to: 2006-2007” returns 263 articles. • Search with keyword “pheo…” and keyword “risk factors” returns 0 articles. But if we change the database to ECO we find 1.

  16. Click to search other databases

  17. Final thoughts • Literature is an iterative process: find an article, investigate associated links and other works by the author, search specific journals. • Be inclusive, but not exhaustive, in citations. You don’t need to list all 1,902 articles, only those you actually draw data and ideas from. • Rule of thumb – stick to references from the past 5 years unless particularly noteworthy.