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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 13 of 29)
Section 1: Health Services Research Databases and Information Resources

HSRR (Health Services and Sciences Research Resources)

Snapshot of NLM's HSRR database. This image will open a new window. Close the opened window to return to this page. The National Library of Medicine has developed a database of Health Services and Sciences Research Resources (HSRR) (

Rather than being an archive of datasets and instruments themselves, the HSRR is a searchable online database of records, i.e., categorical descriptions of datasets and instruments.

In it can be found information about research datasets and instruments/indices employed in Health Services Research, Behavioral and Social Sciences and Public Health with links to PubMed.

If there is literature in PubMed HSRR will include a search. If not, HSRR will often include citations to published literature.

Many HSRR records include a link to PubMed and other reports and
documentation on the Internet. For example: (note Secondary Sources and URLs).

Also note that the relevant search terms show up in red in the retrieved records as seen below in the two records displayed.

National Immunization Survey
Title Acronym NIS
Title URL
Record Type DataSet
Source National Immunization Program, CDC
Source URL
Secondary Source National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), CDC
Secondary Source URL
Purpose The NIS was established to provide an on-going, consistent data set for analyzing vaccination levels among young children in the US and disseminating this information to interested public health partners.
Description The National Immunization Program works throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and commonwealths to maintain and enhance early childhood vaccination coverage levels. To monitor vaccination coverage for all recommended vaccines for children 19 through 35 months of age, the National Immunization survey (NIS) is being conducted in 78 areas, consisting of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and 27 metropolitan areas. Beginning with the second quarter of 1994 the NIS data collection effort will conduct independent quarterly surveys in each of the 78 IAP areas. This will make it possible to combine four consecutive quarters of survey data with a degree of precision sufficient for analytic purposes to provide annualized estimates of the coverage rates for the five antigens (DTP, Polio, MMR, Hib, and Hep B) within each of the 78 IAP areas recommended in 1994. The survey has been flexible to allow monitoring of newly recommended vaccines.
Media Public-Use Data Files are available on the Web ( and include:
  • Data User's Guide
  • Data Documentation, Codebook and Frequencies
  • Dataset
  • SAS Input Statements
Special Notes Compensating for Provider Nonresponse
Using Response Propensities to Form
Adjustment Cells: The National Immunization Survey.
Vital and Health Statistics, Series 2, Number 133, PDF 2.9 mb
For more coverage information see
Method/Technique The data collection methodology and sample design use list-assisted random digit dialing methods to sample households and conduct computer -assisted telephone interviews. Screening for households with children 19 through 35 months of age is conducted through brief interviews. When an eligible household is identified, data on vaccination history, including dates and/or numbers of immunization events and socio-demographic information are obtained for each child and household interviewed.
Population, Ethnicity Not Spanish/Hispanic
Puerto Rican
Other Spanish
Don't Know
and Refused Specification.
Population, Racial White
American Indian
Don't Know
and Refused Specification.
Population, Sex Male and Female
MEDLINE Search Strategy PubMed Search
Date Revised 22-Mar-2005

Searching the Database

HSRR can be searched by MeSH heading, or can be browsed. The image below can be used for retrieving instruments as well as software and datasets. Search results are presented by tool type

Snapshot of the HSRR Search engine.

When searching, use quotes with phrases. Terms can be ANDed or ORed. All records, or only the datasets or instruments or software can be searched.

A sample search, "state health policy" with the Search Instruments/Indices only turned up this record

Snapshot of HSRR search of state health policy with the Search the Instruments/Indices radio button only checked. Clicking this image will open a new window. Close the opened window to return to this page.

HSRR automatically combines (ANDs) two or more terms. You may: search for phrases using quotes as above, use Boolean operators and, search within fields using field tags.

Searching the instruments/indices section will allow researchers to find questions that can be used as is - or adapted for their own surveys. HSRR links you to the survey and from there the questionnaire can be examined. (Note: Survey questions are valid for the survey they were authored for but must be tested and validated for other surveys).

Finding validated questionnaires is important to librarians because clients, especially Master's-level students, often ask them about possible resources for questions that the student can use in his or her research.

Browsing the Database

If you are not sure about what you need, browse by title or by the source of the dataset, instrument or software. The image below shows how you can search by title or by source (creator of the dataset, instrument or software).

Each HSRR record includes information about the source, content, format, accessibility (e.g., provider or vendor contact information, costs and restrictions on use), methodology (e.g., sample size, population characteristics, unit(s) of analysis, data collection mechanisms), relevant published references with links to MEDLINE when available, related data sets and instruments, and other technical information about a dataset or instrument.

Types of data tools described in HSRR will include clinical records, discharge summaries, claims records, epidemiological surveys, health/behavioral/social surveys, disease registries, birth registries, and data about practitioners, programs, and facilities.

Some of the data tools described in HSRR will be proprietary; others will be institutional information systems from which data would have to be extracted for research purposes.

Example: Another HSRR record

SMART: Selected Metropolitan Micropolitan Area Risk Trends
Title Acronym SMART BRFSS
Title URL
Record Type DataSet
Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Source URL
Purpose The Selected Metropolitan/Micropolitan Area Risk Trends (SMART) project uses the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to analyze the data of selected metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas (MMSAs) with 500 or more respondents. BRFSS data can be used to identify emerging health problems, establish and track health objectives, and develop and evaluate public health policies and programs.
Media Web-based system
Data Format Both raw data and charts are available
Price Information Available free-of-charge
Years of Availability Current data available
Variables Alcohol Consumption; Asthma; Cardiovascular Disease; Cholesterol Awareness; Colorectal Cancer Screening; Demographics; Diabetes; Exercise; Firearms; Health Care Access; Health Care Utilization; Health Status; HIV/AIDS; Hypertension Awareness; Immunization; Injury Control; Nutrition; Oral Health; Risk Factors and Calculated Variables; Skin Cancer; Smokeless Tobacco; Tobacco Use; Weight Control; Women's Health
Population The acronym MMSA refers to metropolitan statistical areas, micropolitan statistical areas, and metropolitan divisions. These geographic subdivisions are designated by the U. S. Office of Management and Budget and used by the U. S. Census Bureau as of June 2003. Metropolitan statistical area -- Group of counties that contain at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more inhabitants (e.g., Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA). Micropolitan statistical area-- Group of counties that contain at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 inhabitants (e.g., Willimantic, CT). Metropolitan division -- A smaller group of counties within a metropolitan statistical area of 2.5 million or more inhabitants (e.g., Boston-Quincy, MA within Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH Metropolitan Statistical Area).
Population, Ethnicity Hispanic or Latino
Not Hispanic or Latino
Geographic Region

All MMSAs with at least 500 completed interviews in the 2002 BRFSS data were selected for inclusion in this project. A total of 98 MMSAs met these criteria.

MEDLINE Search Strategy PubMed Search
Keywords Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System; United States; epidemiology; Urban Population; Statistics & numerical data
Date Revised 19-Jan-2012


  1. Search or browse the HSRR database for one or more topics of interest. When you retrieve your results, examine the MEDLINE Search Strategy. How helpful is the PubMed Search strategy? Exactly what kinds of citations does the search give you? Could you piggyback on the expertise of trained NLM searchers to get information on datasets of interest to your researchers? Would this save you time?
  2. Visit the HSRR database and search for "activities of daily living". Be sure the Search Instruments/Indices only radio button is selected. How many hits do you get? Can you tell who produced the scale and how to contact them for additional information? Select one or more records and examine it/them thoroughly. What useful information about the instrument can you retrieve? Why is it valuable to have instruments contained in HSRR?

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss how HSRR can be used to support health services researchers.
  2. What, if anything, could NLM add to the database to make it even more useful?
  3. How useful is/would be the MEDLINE Search Strategy in helping you conceptualize your own searches?
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