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Res Synth Methods. 2018 Mar;9(1):124-131. doi: 10.1002/jrsm.1282. Epub 2017 Nov 29.

Searching for evidence or approval? A commentary on database search in systematic reviews and alternative information retrieval methodologies.

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Independent Research Consultant, Luxembourg.
Biometris, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Despite recognition that database search alone is inadequate even within the health sciences, it appears that reviewers in fields that have adopted systematic review are choosing to rely primarily, or only, on database search for information retrieval. This commentary reminds readers of factors that call into question the appropriateness of default reliance on database searches particularly as systematic review is adapted for use in new and lower consensus fields. It then discusses alternative methods for information retrieval that require development, formalisation, and evaluation. Our goals are to encourage reviewers to reflect critically and transparently on their choice of information retrieval methods and to encourage investment in research on alternatives.


information science; qualitative research; realist reviews; systematic reviews/meta-analyses

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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