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BMJ. 2005 May 21;330(7501):1179. Epub 2005 May 13.

Optimal search strategies for retrieving scientifically strong studies of treatment from Medline: analytical survey.

Author information

  • 1Health Information Research Unit, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8N 3Z5. bhaynes@mcmaster.ca

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To develop and test optimal Medline search strategies for retrieving sound clinical studies on prevention or treatment of health disorders.

DESIGN:

Analytical survey.

DATA SOURCES:

161 clinical journals indexed in Medline for the year 2000.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Sensitivity, specificity, precision, and accuracy of 4862 unique terms in 18 404 combinations.

RESULTS:

Only 1587 (24.2%) of 6568 articles on treatment met criteria for testing clinical interventions. Combinations of search terms reached peak sensitivities of 99.3% (95% confidence interval 98.7% to 99.8%) at a specificity of 70.4% (69.8% to 70.9%). Compared with best single terms, best multiple terms increased sensitivity for sound studies by 4.1% (absolute increase), but with substantial loss of specificity (absolute difference 23.7%) when sensitivity was maximised. When terms were combined to maximise specificity, 97.4% (97.3% to 97.6%) was achieved, about the same as that achieved by the best single term (97.6%, 97.4% to 97.7%). The strategies newly reported in this paper outperformed other validated search strategies except for two strategies that had slightly higher specificity (98.1% and 97.6% v 97.4%) but lower sensitivity (42.0% and 92.8% v 93.1%).

CONCLUSION:

New empirical search strategies have been validated to optimise retrieval from Medline of articles reporting high quality clinical studies on prevention or treatment of health disorders.

Comment in

PMID:
15894554
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC558012
Free PMC Article

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