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BMJ. 2005 Jan 8;330(7482):68. Epub 2004 Dec 24.

Optimal search strategies for retrieving systematic reviews from Medline: analytical survey.

Author information

  • 1Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To develop optimal search strategies in Medline for retrieving systematic reviews.

DESIGN:

Analytical survey.

DATA SOURCES:

161 journals published in 2000 indexed in Medline.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

The sensitivity, specificity, and precision of retrieval of systematic reviews of 4862 unique terms in 782,485 combinations of one to five terms were determined by comparison with a hand search of all articles (the criterion standard) in 161 journals published during 2000 (49,028 articles).

RESULTS:

Only 753 (1.5%) of the 49,028 articles were systematic reviews. The most sensitive strategy included five terms and had a sensitivity of 99.9% (95% confidence interval 99.6% to 100%) and a specificity of 52% (51.6% to 52.5%). The strategy that best minimised the difference between sensitivity and specificity had a sensitivity of 98% (97% to 99%) and specificity of 90.8% (90.5% to 91.1%). Highest precision for multiterm strategies, 57% (54% to 60%), was achieved at a sensitivity of 71% (68% to 74%). The term "cochrane database of systematic reviews.jn." was the most precise single term search strategy (sensitivity of 56% (52% to 60%) and precision of 96% (94% to 98%)). These strategies are available through the "limit" screen of Ovid's search interface for Medline.

CONCLUSIONS:

Systematic reviews can be retrieved from Medline with close to perfect sensitivity or specificity, or with high precision, by using empirical search strategies.

Comment in

PMID:
15619601
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC543864
Free PMC Article

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