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Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2003 Mar 26;107(1):19-23.

Electronic searching of the literature for systematic reviews of screening and diagnostic tests for preterm birth.

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  • 1Academic Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Birmingham Women's Hospital, Birmingham B15 2TG, UK.



Published systematic reviews on prediction of preterm birth have tended to focus on a limited number of tests and their search strategies have often been relatively simple. Evaluation of all available tests in a systemic review will require a broad search strategy.


To describe a case study of electronic searching for a systematic review of accuracy studies evaluating all tests for predicting preterm birth.


The search strategy, developed to capture literatures concerning all the tests en-masse consisted of formulation of an appropriate combination of search terms, pilot searches to refine the search term combination, selection of relevant databases, and citation retrieval from the refined searches for selection of potentially relevant papers. Electronic searches were carried out on general bibliographic databases (Biosis, Embase, Medline, Pascal and Scisearch), specialised databases (Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness, Medion, National Research Register, Cochrane Controlled Trial Register and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews).


A total of 30076 citations were identified. Of these 8855 (29%) citations were duplications either within a database or across databases. Of the remaining 21221 citations, 3333 were considered potentially relevant to the review after assessment by two reviewers. These citations covered 19 different tests for predicting preterm birth.


This case study suggests that with use of a concerted effort to organise and manage the electronic searching it is feasible to undertake broad searches for systematic reviews with multiple questions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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