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Review of the usefulness of contacting other experts when conducting a literature search for systematic reviews

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7172.1562 (Published 05 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1562
  1. R J McManus, clinical research fellow (r.j.mcmanus@bham.ac.uk)a,
  2. S Wilson, research fellowa,
  3. B C Delaney, senior lecturera,
  4. D A Fitzmaurice, senior lecturera,
  5. C J Hyde, directorb,
  6. R S Tobias, research associatea,
  7. S Jowett, research associatea,
  8. F D R Hobbs, professora
  1. Department of Primary Care and General Practice, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT
  2. Aggressive Research Intelligence Facility, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16 9PA
  1. aCorrespondence to: Dr McManus

    Introduction

    Identifying relevant studies is “the most fundamental challenge” when compiling a systematic review.1 Electronic databases, such as Medline, may detect only about half of papers identified by the gold standard of hand searching journals.1 Hand searching requires a focus, usually the specialist literature,2 which may not exist for newly developed fields or those that cross boundaries with other areas. We examined the usefulness of contacting other experts when searching for relevant references for a systematic review of a field where such a specialist focus does not exist.

    View this table:

    Results of various types of search

    Methods and results

    As part of a systematic review undertaken in 1996, all published literature relating to “near patient testing” (any investigation performed in a clinical setting where the result is available without a sample being sent to a laboratory for analysis) in primary care was identified for 1986-95.3 Electronic databases were searched and secondary citations were collected from identified publications (see table). The search strategy is reported elsewhere.3 Indexes of abstracts from major international …

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