Controlled vocabulary

Scope: this is used to index papers describing the development, use and strengths of controlled vocabulary either generally or specifically (e.g. MeSH) and how to identify controlled vocabulary terms to develop search strategies

Appraisal of: Kahn TJ, Ninomiya H. Changing vocabularies: A guide to help bioethics searchers find relevant literature in National Library of Medicine databases using the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) indexing vocabulary. Kennedy Inst Ethics J 2003; 13

Short description: 

The aim of the publications is to present a vocabulary on bioethics as part of the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) catalog provided by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), Washington (DC). The purpose of the authors is to help researchers to find publications on bioethics and related topics in MEDLINE/PubMed, LOCATORplus and other NLM’s Gateway system databases.

The publications provide information on the subset of keywords in bioethics as well as a list of the Bioethics Thesaurus Keywords and MeSH equivalents. Information is presented on how to use the subset “bioethics”, how to find publications by entering MeSH Headings and free-text queries in MEDLINE/PubMed, and when to use the MeSH Subheading “Ethics”. As well guidance on how to access and use the LOCATORplus database and limiting the retrieval results to bioethics-related publications, searching with MeSH Headings and free text queries is given. 

The 2003 publication has been extended in 2005.

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

No limitations are stated.

Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
Some modifications were undertaken since 2005 in MEDLINE/PubMed. NLM Gateway now features the databases Meeting Abstracts and Health Services Research Projects in Progress (HSRProj) only.

Appraisal of: Alton V, Eckerlund I, Norlund A. Health economic evaluations: how to find them. Int J Technol Assess Health Care 2006; 22(4):512-517.

Reviewer(s): 
Short description: 
This article investigates databases and search terms to retrieve the most relevant published health economic evaluation studies. The authors searched six bibliographic databases (NHS EED via Cochrane Library and via CRD; PubMed; Embase, EconLit, SciSearch via DialogClassic; and HEED on CD-ROM) using various search strategies. Searching NHS EED plus PubMed was determined to be the best approach. PubMed did not consistently index cost-effectiveness studies, so a combination of the MeSH “Costs and Cost Analysis”, the MeSH subheading “Economics”, and text words were used in the filter.
Limitations stated by the author(s): 
This is a case study where approaches were tested for only one topic area: diagnosing GERD. Economic evaluations retrieved that were irrelevant to this topic were excluded. Studies weren’t assessed for quality and internal validity as it was beyond the scope.
Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
The detailed search strategies and date limits are not published in the article; readers are referred to the SBU website. MeSH terms and text words are suggested, but not rigorously or individually tested.
Study Type: 
Single study
Related Chapters: 
Supplemental publications to the study: 

Appraisal of: Hinde S, Spackman E, Claxton K, Sculpher M J. The cost-effectiveness threshold: the results of a novel literature review method. Value in Health 2011;14:A354.

Short description: 
This research is reported as a conference abstract. The authors report a comparison of searching for papers on the cost-effectiveness threshold using key terms with Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and pearl growing from a pool of relevant papers. Searching using a search strategy identified 34 papers of which 17 were relevant. Pearl growing identified 76 relevant papers including the 17 already identified. Pearl growing identifies papers and chapters not indexed elsewhere.
Limitations stated by the author(s): 
The existing software (unspecified) limits the searching.
Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
The limited space provided in a conference abstract does not offer the authors the opportunity to describe the databases they searched and how they conducted the pearl growing. Journal databases do not index reports or books or book chapters so searches limited to journals would not be comparable to the pearl growing approach. The authors do not report the time taken for the two approaches and the number of irrelevant references rejected through the pearl growing.
Study Type: 
Single study
Related Chapters: 

Appraisal of: Golder S, Loke YK. Failure or success of electronic search strategies to identify adverse effects data. J Med Libr Assoc 2012;100(2):130-134.

Short description: 
The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of adverse effects terms in the title, abstract, and / or indexing of adverse effects papers published from 2001 onwards and the implications of this on search strategy approaches. A cohort of 242 papers, indexed in MEDLINE, Embase and / or Science Citation Index (SCI), was identified to investigate this and compare the results with a similar study published in 2001 by Derry, Loke and Aronson. Of the 242 papers identified, 231 were indexed in MEDLINE, 222 were indexed in Embase and 238 were indexed in SCI. Searching with generic or specific named adverse effects terms in the title, abstract, or indexing identify 89% of the references indexed in Embase, 80% of the references indexed in Medline and 70% of the references indexed in SCI. Generic adverse effects terms in the title and abstract in any of the 3 databases, generic and specific indexing terms or adverse effects subheadings in Embase, and subheadings for adverse effects in Medline retrieved the highest proportion of references. Compared to previous research findings, adverse effects terms seemed to be increasingly prevalent in the title, abstract and indexing of adverse effects papers in both MEDLINE and Embase.
Limitations stated by the author(s): 
No limitations stated by the study authors
Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
No limitations detected by the reviewer
Study Type: 
Single study
Related Chapters: 

Appraisal of: Golder S, McIntosh HM, Loke Y. Identifying systematic reviews of the adverse effects of health care interventions. BMC Med Res Methodol 2006;6:22.

Short description: 
The aim of the study was to assess how easily one could identify systematic reviews of adverse effects in the two major databases of systematic reviews: the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE) and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR). A gold standard set of records (270 systematic reviews) was identified from DARE and CDSR by carrying out searches for systematic reviews of adverse effects published from 1994 to 2005. The search strategies used a combination of text words in the title and abstract, subject headings (MeSH) and subheadings. In addition, DARE records in progress were hand searched. The search terms used to identify the systematic reviews were assessed for their usefulness in retrieving relevant records by measuring their sensitivity and precision. The results showed that ‘floating’ subheadings provided the highest sensitivity in both DARE and CDSR (85% and 64% respectively). All single search terms in CDSR resulted in very low precision (0% - 3%). Single MeSH terms provided the highest level of precision in DARE (67%-73%). The most sensitive search strategy in DARE used a combination of text words in the title and abstract, a MeSH term and ‘floating’ subheadings (94%). The precision of this strategy was 16%. In CDSR the most sensitive strategy used the ‘floating’ subheading ‘adverse effects’ and text word search ‘adverse near/20 objectives’ in the abstract field (79%). The precision of this strategy was 3%.
Limitations stated by the author(s): 
Although DARE and CDSR are excellent sources of systematic reviews of adverse effects, not all reviews reported as being systematic are contained in these databases. Also, systematic reviews included in these databases tend to be of higher methodological quality, which may reflect better reporting and therefore better indexing. The low number of systematic reviews of adverse effects in CDSR (14) made the analysis of data and assessment of usefulness of individual search terms difficult. The search terms tested in the study were predefined from previous research and were not obtained by objective methods. However, papers not retrieved with the predefined search terms didn’t reveal many additional terms.
Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
Even though this study provides the most up-to-date evidence on the topic of identifying systematic reviews of adverse effects in CDSR and DARE, readers should bear in mind that the study was published in 2006. Adverse effects terms may be increasingly prevalent in the title, abstract and indexing terms of records of studies published more recently compared to those published up until 2006. Readers may, therefore, wish to consider the appraisals of more recent work by Golder et al which address identifying single studies reporting adverse effects. Changes made in the two databases in recent years (such as new user interfaces and search functionality) may also influence the validity of the study findings. In addition to the limitation outlined above regarding the very low number of systematic reviews of adverse effects in CDSR (14), it should also be noted that reviews of adverse effects make up a relatively low percentage of the total number of reviews in DARE and an even lower percentage of the total number of reviews in CDSR and that this might have some bearing on the findings of the study. Also, it should be noted that the same set of search terms was used both to identify the systematic reviews for the gold standard set of records, and to measure the performance of single search terms and their combinations. This might have influenced the findings of this study.
Study Type: 
Single study
Related Chapters: 

Comments from the authors:

Appraisal of: Golder S, Loke Y. The performance of adverse effects search filters in MEDLINE and EMBASE. Health Info Libr J 2012;29(2):141-151.

Short description: 
The aim of the study was to measure the sensitivity of published adverse effects search filters in MEDLINE and Embase. The performance of all the individual search terms included in the filters was also measured. The results showed that 93% of the MEDLINE records and 97% of the Embase records could be retrieved by using adverse effects search filters. High sensitivity could also be achieved by using individual adverse effects ‘floating’ subheadings such as Adverse Drug Reaction (83%) or Side Effect (83%) in Embase. In MEDLINE the highest sensitivity using individual adverse effects ‘floating’ subheadings was achieved by using Adverse Effects (51%). Some free text terms for adverse effects in the title and / or abstract were also found to be useful, but the authors recommend applying these terms only concurrently with other search terms such as subheadings. The sensitivity of the few existing indexing terms (MeSH and Emtree) for adverse effects was shown to be low.
Limitations stated by the author(s): 
The main limitation of this study was that the precision of search terms and search filters was not measured. The most sensitive search filters or search terms might be those with the lowest precision and might therefore result in very low precision (that is, the retrieval of very large numbers of irrelevant records). Further research that measures the precision of these search terms and filters is required in order to determine the full value and effectiveness of using adverse effects terms in search strategies. Caution should be applied when using the results of this study, especially as some of the search terms with relatively high sensitivity appear to have only a vague connection to adverse effects (such as ‘Therapeutic Use’ and ‘Pharmacology’).
Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
No additional limitations detected by the reviewer
Study Type: 
Single study
Related Chapters: 

Comments from the authors:

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