Cochrane guidelines for systematic review searching

In Evidence-Based Medicine on November 18, 2008 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , , ,

You’ve got to hand it to Cochrane, love them or loathe them, they keep on churning out those substantial reviews of their. They’ve released a new Cochrane Handbook, which details some changes to their searching guidelines. Laika is going into these changes in detail and I encourage those interested in the changes to take a look at her post – she identifies four key changes (my comments in italics):

1) More emphasis on the central role of the Trial Search Coordinator (TSC) in the search process (i.e. don’t just ask your PhD student to do the search for you)

2) Specialized Registers/CENTRAL should be searched first, followed by MEDLINE (as a minimum), together with EMBASE if it is available. MEDLINE should be searched from 2005 onwards, since CENTRAL contains all records from MEDLINE indexed with the Publication Type term ‘Randomized Controlled Trial’ or ‘Controlled Clinical Trial’ (of course, while cochrane might have gone back and re-indexed RCTs etc, we’re still relying on the indexers to have got it right, plus I agree with Laika that it’s easier to do MEDLINE and EMBASE first (e.g. with OViD), then CENTRAL after that, as CENTRAL remains rather clunky to search)

3) The full search strategies for each database searched need to be included in an Appendix with the total number of hits retrieved (quite right too – hitherto reporting of searches has been very variable across reviews)

4) Two new Cochrane Highly Sensitive Search Strategies for identifying randomized trials in MEDLINE strategies have been developed. EMBASE filters in development (Really? Well, I’ll take a look sometime. Fortunately Laika will review these in a forthcoming post. Excellent work!)


One Response to “Cochrane guidelines for systematic review searching”

  1. Thanks, Alan. Thanks, Laika. Wow, you two are quick as I think the release of the handbook was quite recent.

    Can I just slightly change the subject and say that, compared with CDSR, Central is a dream come true, at least in Ovid. I search CDSR on the Ovid platform and there is no authority control for headings. Headings are not in MeSH format. They are a maximum of 1 word in length. What does one do after completing a Medline search where TOMOGRAPHY, X-RAY COMPUTED was a useful heading? In my last search, I winged it and entered SCANNER$.kw and The search picked up zero hits in total, which is not uncommon, even though the Medline or Embase searches often get hundreds each.

    My last thought is on the fact that there *must* be a bare minimum for searching, if not in Cochrane, then where? So I’m glad to see the bar raised, somewhat. I wonder if we do not need to drill down further and specify that PsycInfo must be searched for psych interventions and Cinahl for nursing interventions, etc. Of course it should be obvious, but apparently is not.


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