Appraisal of: Spry C, Mierzwinski-Urban M. The impact of the peer review of literature search strategies in support of rapid review reports. Res Synth Methods 2018;9(4):521-6.

Short description: 

The objective of the article was to investigate the impact of peer review of literature search strategies in CADTH rapid reviews.  The article describes how the results of pre-peer-reviewed searches from a sample of 200 rapid reviews compared with their corresponding post-peer-reviewed search results. Those records identified uniquely by the post-peer-reviewed search, and included in the rapid review report, were analysed to see why they had been retrieved. Although peer reviewed strategies identified additional records in 75% of the searches investigated, only 4% of these records were included in the rapid review reports. The addition of more keywords and subject headings was the main contribution leading to the identification of further included studies. Different combinations of concepts also contributed to the retrieval of new studies. The article concludes that peer review of search strategies helps to retrieve additional relevant studies, and that reviews including non-randomised studies benefit most.

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

Search strategies were developed quickly for rapid reviews, so were not highly sensitive. Only studies developed for PubMed were investigated; results may be different for strategies developed for other databases/hosts. Discrepancies may have been introduced when search strategies originally saved to Word documents were converted to PubMed syntax. Searcher experience was not controlled for in the investigation. It is possible that changes introduced to search strategies after peer review resulted in the omission of relevant records.

Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
Only rapid reviews published in 2009 were included in the study sample.
Study Type: 
Single study