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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

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Introduction to Health Services Research : A Self-Study Course

Module 4: Search the Literature of HSR: Databases (Page 7 of 29)
Section 1: Health Services Research Databases and Information Resources

HSR Literature, continued...

For a comprehensive search of health services research materials, you will want to use PubMed and LOCATORplus (to exploit the powerful search features of each of these services), or alternatively, to use the NLM Gateway for a single, unified approach.

This next section will demonstrate how to search for health services literature. As mentioned previously, HealthSTAR references are now available from PubMed and from LOCATORplus.

Take one of the questions listed in one of the case studies or a question of your choice to practice searching for the HSR literature.

Before you start, consider how you would answer the following questions:

  1. What are the major concepts in this question?
  2. What MeSH or natural language terms would you suggest?
  3. What strategy would you attempt?

Natural language terms are text words most often found in the title or abstract. They may be MeSH terms also, but most often they are words that might be new to the field. NLM staff maps text terms to the appropriate MeSH term if available.

Retrieving Quality Articles from PubMed During the Search Process

In addition to applying the previously mentioned filters, try title searches [ti] on these terms to retrieve evidence-based results:

Best evidence [ti]
Critical appraisal [ti]
Effective Programs [ti]
Evidence based public health [ti]
Science based [ti]
Systematic review [ti]

Source: Selected EBPH Terms from PubMed, Public Health Manual Tutorial. 2005. [Online] Site URL: http://phpartners.org/tutorial/04-ebph/2-keyConcepts/4.2.6.html. You would substitute medicine for the word 'public health' above.

Retrieving Evidence-based Articles

It is also worth examining the many papers written by Brian Haynes, et al, as well as Montori VM, et al's paper titled,"Optimal search strategies for retrieving systematic reviews from Medline: analytical survey" which appeared in the BMJ in 2005 for insights into best practices in searching for the evidence-based literature.

Montori recommends that you list "indexing terms (for example, subject headings and subheadings, publication types) and text words used to describe systematic reviews (single words or phrases that may appear in titles or abstracts, both in full and in various truncations)" before beginning to type in your search.

Exercise

  1. Pick a topic that you might have not searched before - or from one of the cases - and using the questions 1 through 3 above, run a search. How do you know you've retrieved the best/most relevant articles?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to define the major concepts before you start your search? If you are doing a search in an area new to you, how do you discover the appropriate MeSH or natural language terms?
  2. What did you discover when you assembled the major concepts, translated them into MeSH or natural language terms and created the search strategy for your question? Are health services searches easy searches to plan and do or do you need to spend a lot of time conceptualizing the search and redoing it to get at the content you need to answer the question?
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