Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Appraisal of: Pohl, S. Boolean and Ranked Information Retrieval for Biomedical Systematic Reviewing [thesis]. Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering: University of Melbourne; 2012.

Short description: 

The aim of the study was to devise and examine ranked retrieval methods with regard to their applicability to the search tasks involved in the preparation and update of systematic reviews. A ranked retrieval alternative in the form of the p-norm extended Boolean retrieval (EBR) model was shown to provide advantages over the current Boolean approach, but to also satisfy important task specific requirements. Using this retrieval method, a greater number of relevant studies than with the current Boolean approach can be identified for inclusion in systematic reviews, reducing the dependence on potentially biased secondary search methods. The method is close to current practice and hence requires minimal changes to the current process, which should facilitate its adoption.

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

"One caveat with this experimental setup is that the queries could possibly be biased by knowledge about the documents in the test set. Hence, absolute performance on the test set might not be reliable, but this setup still allows for relative comparison of the approach because both the optimized queries as well as the baseline would have this advantage." (p. 154)

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

Appraisal of: Craven J, Jefferies J, Kendrick J, Nicholls D, Boynton J, Frankish R. A comparison of searching the Cochrane library databases via CRD, Ovid and Wiley: implications for systematic searching and information services. Health Info Libr J. 2014

Reviewer(s): 
Short description: 

The different interfaces for searching Cochrane Library databases are compared in this paper. Firstly CENTRAL and CDSR are compared via Ovid and Wiley and then DARE, NHS EED and HTA databases are compared via Ovid, Wiley and the CRD website. The authors explore search syntax comparisons including proximity operators, MeSH headings, search term order and fields searched. The authors found that there were differences in the use of MeSH headings, searching for free text and using proximity operators. They also suggest a “best match” search syntax to be used across the different interfaces. 

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

Firstly only certain aspects of interface functionality were examined and compared. Secondly only a small number of terms were used to explore each of the search functions. Thirdly the relevance or usefulness of additional records found via one interface but not another was not explored. Lastly, each difference in search syntax was examined individually and not in a combination of search terms/ search string as would happen in the real world.

A follow-up study is planned: to apply the findings to more real-life by comparing full search strategies.

Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
The demise of DARE and NHS EED will impact on the relevance of this paper. Cannot find any numbers on how many unique references there were in the different interfaces. No analysis on recall and precision.
Study Type: 
Single study
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