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1.  EMBASE search strategies for identifying methodologically sound diagnostic studies for use by clinicians and researchers 
BMC Medicine  2005;3:7.
Accurate diagnosis by clinicians is the cornerstone of decision making for recommending clinical interventions. The current best evidence from research concerning diagnostic tests changes unpredictably as science advances. Both clinicians and researchers need dependable access to published evidence concerning diagnostic accuracy. Bibliographic databases such as EMBASE provide the most widely available entrée to this literature. The objective of this study was to develop search strategies that optimize the retrieval of methodologically sound diagnostic studies from EMBASE for use by clinicians.
An analytic survey was conducted, comparing hand searches of 55 journals with retrievals from EMBASE for 4,843 candidate search terms and 6,574 combinations. All articles were rated using purpose and quality indicators, and clinically relevant diagnostic accuracy articles were categorized as 'pass' or 'fail' according to explicit criteria for scientific merit. Candidate search strategies were run in EMBASE, the retrievals being compared with the hand search data. The proposed search strategies were treated as "diagnostic tests" for sound studies and the manual review of the literature was treated as the "gold standard." The sensitivity, specificity, precision and accuracy of the search strategies were calculated.
Of the 433 articles about diagnostic tests, 97 (22.4%) met basic criteria for scientific merit. Combinations of search terms reached peak sensitivities of 100% with specificity at 70.4%. Compared with best single terms, best multiple terms increased sensitivity for sound studies by 8.2% (absolute increase), but decreased specificity (absolute decrease 6%) when sensitivity was maximized. When terms were combined to maximize specificity, the single term "" (specificity of 98.2%) outperformed combinations of terms.
Empirically derived search strategies combining indexing terms and textwords can achieve high sensitivity and specificity for retrieving sound diagnostic studies from EMBASE. These search filters will enhance the searching efforts of clinicians.
PMCID: PMC1079845  PMID: 15796772
2.  What do evidence-based secondary journals tell us about the publication of clinically important articles in primary healthcare journals? 
BMC Medicine  2004;2:33.
We conducted this analysis to determine i) which journals publish high-quality, clinically relevant studies in internal medicine, general/family practice, general practice nursing, and mental health; and ii) the proportion of clinically relevant articles in each journal.
We performed an analytic survey of a hand search of 170 general medicine, general healthcare, and specialty journals for 2000. Research staff assessed individual articles by using explicit criteria for scientific merit for healthcare application. Practitioners assessed the clinical importance of these articles. Outcome measures were the number of high-quality, clinically relevant studies published in the 170 journal titles and how many of these were published in each of four discipline-specific, secondary "evidence-based" journals (ACP Journal Club for internal medicine and its subspecialties; Evidence-Based Medicine for general/family practice; Evidence-Based Nursing for general practice nursing; and Evidence-Based Mental Health for all aspects of mental health). Original studies and review articles were classified for purpose: therapy and prevention, screening and diagnosis, prognosis, etiology and harm, economics and cost, clinical prediction guides, and qualitative studies.
We evaluated 60,352 articles from 170 journal titles. The pass criteria of high-quality methods and clinically relevant material were met by 3059 original articles and 1073 review articles. For ACP Journal Club (internal medicine), four titles supplied 56.5% of the articles and 27 titles supplied the other 43.5%. For Evidence-Based Medicine (general/family practice), five titles supplied 50.7% of the articles and 40 titles supplied the remaining 49.3%. For Evidence-Based Nursing (general practice nursing), seven titles supplied 51.0% of the articles and 34 additional titles supplied 49.0%. For Evidence-Based Mental Health (mental health), nine titles supplied 53.2% of the articles and 34 additional titles supplied 46.8%. For the disciplines of internal medicine, general/family practice, and mental health (but not general practice nursing), the number of clinically important articles was correlated withScience Citation Index (SCI) Impact Factors.
Although many clinical journals publish high-quality, clinically relevant and important original studies and systematic reviews, the articles for each discipline studied were concentrated in a small subset of journals. This subset varied according to healthcare discipline; however, many of the important articles for all disciplines in this study were published in broad-based healthcare journals rather than subspecialty or discipline-specific journals.
PMCID: PMC518974  PMID: 15350200
3.  Developing optimal search strategies for detecting clinically sound prognostic studies in MEDLINE: an analytic survey 
BMC Medicine  2004;2:23.
Clinical end users of MEDLINE have a difficult time retrieving articles that are both scientifically sound and directly relevant to clinical practice. Search filters have been developed to assist end users in increasing the success of their searches. Many filters have been developed for the literature on therapy and reviews but little has been done in the area of prognosis. The objective of this study is to determine how well various methodologic textwords, Medical Subject Headings, and their Boolean combinations retrieve methodologically sound literature on the prognosis of health disorders in MEDLINE.
An analytic survey was conducted, comparing hand searches of journals with retrievals from MEDLINE for candidate search terms and combinations. Six research assistants read all issues of 161 journals for the publishing year 2000. All articles were rated using purpose and quality indicators and categorized into clinically relevant original studies, review articles, general papers, or case reports. The original and review articles were then categorized as 'pass' or 'fail' for methodologic rigor in the areas of prognosis and other clinical topics. Candidate search strategies were developed for prognosis and run in MEDLINE – the retrievals being compared with the hand search data. The sensitivity, specificity, precision, and accuracy of the search strategies were calculated.
12% of studies classified as prognosis met basic criteria for scientific merit for testing clinical applications. Combinations of terms reached peak sensitivities of 90%. Compared with the best single term, multiple terms increased sensitivity for sound studies by 25.2% (absolute increase), and increased specificity, but by a much smaller amount (1.1%) when sensitivity was maximized. Combining terms to optimize both sensitivity and specificity achieved sensitivities and specificities of approximately 83% for each.
Empirically derived search strategies combining indexing terms and textwords can achieve high sensitivity and specificity for retrieving sound prognostic studies from MEDLINE.
PMCID: PMC441418  PMID: 15189561
4.  Systematic reviews: a cross-sectional study of location and citation counts 
BMC Medicine  2003;1:2.
Systematic reviews summarize all pertinent evidence on a defined health question. They help clinical scientists to direct their research and clinicians to keep updated. Our objective was to determine the extent to which systematic reviews are clustered in a large collection of clinical journals and whether review type (narrative or systematic) affects citation counts.
We used hand searches of 170 clinical journals in the fields of general internal medicine, primary medical care, nursing, and mental health to identify review articles (year 2000). We defined 'review' as any full text article that was bannered as a review, overview, or meta-analysis in the title or in a section heading, or that indicated in the text that the intention of the authors was to review or summarize the literature on a particular topic. We obtained citation counts for review articles in the five journals that published the most systematic reviews.
11% of the journals concentrated 80% of all systematic reviews. Impact factors were weakly correlated with the publication of systematic reviews (R2 = 0.075, P = 0.0035). There were more citations for systematic reviews (median 26.5, IQR 12 – 56.5) than for narrative reviews (8, 20, P <.0001 for the difference). Systematic reviews had twice as many citations as narrative reviews published in the same journal (95% confidence interval 1.5 – 2.7).
A few clinical journals published most systematic reviews. Authors cited systematic reviews more often than narrative reviews, an indirect endorsement of the 'hierarchy of evidence'.
PMCID: PMC281591  PMID: 14633274

Results 1-4 (4)