There’s an interesting paper by Agoritsas and colleagues which is freely available here. If you try to search for a paper on Medline the most basic strategy is to type in a few relevant terms into the search box. Say you’re looking for Dementia treatments then you could just type in ‘Dementia treatments’. When you do this you’ll get a lot of results. Not all of them will be relevant to your specific question.
There are various ways to refine the search. For instance you can type in the terms, perform a search and then select the ‘related terms’ that Medline returns. There are numerous variations which are detailed in the paper. With so many search strategies to choose from – how do you decide?
The authors of this paper have come up with an ingenious approach. They identify Cochrane reviews investigating specific clinical questions. These serve as the gold standards of search for the purpose of the study. Then the authors tested 15 search strategies on the clinical questions. They looked at their results and compared them with those in the reviews. By using this approach they were able to calculate the sensitivity and positive predictive value of the search strategies.
The approach is novel and useful and the results are interesting. This is well worth a look and can provide the inspiration for others wanting to further investigate search strategies in Medline.
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