Appraisal of: Sampson M, McGowan J, Cogo E, Grimshaw J, Moher D, Lefebvre C. An evidence-based practice guideline for the peer review of electronic search strategies. J Clin Epidemiol 2009;62(9):944-52.

Reviewer(s): 
Short description: 

The objective of the study was to develop a guideline for the peer review of complex and highly sensitive electronic literature search strategies as used in systematic reviews and health technology assessments. This article describes the evidence-based methods used to develop a guideline through the creation of an annotated checklist.

From a systematic review of library and information retrieval literature, and a survey of experienced information specialists, the study found six elements of strong importance and seven additional elements of partial importance that have an impact on the performance of electronic search strategies. The six important elements were: accurate translation of the research question into search concepts; correct use of Boolean operators; correct combination of line numbers; sufficient translation of the search strategy for use in other databases; inclusion of relevant subject headings; and correct spellings. Using the resultant guideline should reduce errors in search strategies and ultimately improve the quality of systematic reviews and health technology assessments.

The checklist itself, ‘Evidence Based Assessment Form for the Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies (PRESS EBC)’ is published elsewhere [McGowan J, Sampson M, Lefebvre C. An evidence based checklist for the Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies (PRESS EBC). Evidence Based Library & Information Practice 2010;5(1):149-154.]

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

Several of the elements designated as being important in the search strategy did not have any supporting research evidence, relying instead on survey response.

Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
No additional limitations detected by the reviewers.
Study Type: 
Single study