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1.  Glomerular disease search filters for Pubmed, Ovid Medline, and Embase: a development and validation study 
Tools to enhance physician searches of Medline and other bibliographic databases have potential to improve the application of new knowledge in patient care. This is particularly true for articles about glomerular disease, which are published across multiple disciplines and are often difficult to track down. Our objective was to develop and test search filters for PubMed, Ovid Medline, and Embase that allow physicians to search within a subset of the database to retrieve articles relevant to glomerular disease.
We used a diagnostic test assessment framework with development and validation phases. We read a total of 22,992 full text articles for relevance and assigned them to the development or validation set to define the reference standard. We then used combinations of search terms to develop 997,298 unique glomerular disease filters. Outcome measures for each filter included sensitivity, specificity, precision, and accuracy. We selected optimal sensitive and specific search filters for each database and applied them to the validation set to test performance.
High performance filters achieved at least 93.8% sensitivity and specificity in the development set. Filters optimized for sensitivity reached at least 96.7% sensitivity and filters optimized for specificity reached at least 98.4% specificity. Performance of these filters was consistent in the validation set and similar among all three databases.
PubMed, Ovid Medline, and Embase can be filtered for articles relevant to glomerular disease in a reliable manner. These filters can now be used to facilitate physician searching.
PMCID: PMC3471011  PMID: 22672435
Glomerular diseases; Glomerulopathy; Medical Informatics; Information retrieval; Medline; Embase
2.  Sample size determination for bibliographic retrieval studies 
Research for developing search strategies to retrieve high-quality clinical journal articles from MEDLINE is expensive and time-consuming. The objective of this study was to determine the minimal number of high-quality articles in a journal subset that would need to be hand-searched to update or create new MEDLINE search strategies for treatment, diagnosis, and prognosis studies.
The desired width of the 95% confidence intervals (W) for the lowest sensitivity among existing search strategies was used to calculate the number of high-quality articles needed to reliably update search strategies. New search strategies were derived in journal subsets formed by 2 approaches: random sampling of journals and top journals (having the most high-quality articles). The new strategies were tested in both the original large journal database and in a low-yielding journal (having few high-quality articles) subset.
For treatment studies, if W was 10% or less for the lowest sensitivity among our existing search strategies, a subset of 15 randomly selected journals or 2 top journals were adequate for updating search strategies, based on each approach having at least 99 high-quality articles. The new strategies derived in 15 randomly selected journals or 2 top journals performed well in the original large journal database. Nevertheless, the new search strategies developed using the random sampling approach performed better than those developed using the top journal approach in a low-yielding journal subset. For studies of diagnosis and prognosis, no journal subset had enough high-quality articles to achieve the expected W (10%).
The approach of randomly sampling a small subset of journals that includes sufficient high-quality articles is an efficient way to update or create search strategies for high-quality articles on therapy in MEDLINE. The concentrations of diagnosis and prognosis articles are too low for this approach.
PMCID: PMC2569926  PMID: 18823538
3.  An overview of the design and methods for retrieving high-quality studies for clinical care 
With the information explosion, the retrieval of the best clinical evidence from large, general purpose, bibliographic databases such as MEDLINE can be difficult. Both researchers conducting systematic reviews and clinicians faced with a patient care question are confronted with the daunting task of searching for the best medical literature in electronic databases. Many have advocated the use of search filters or "hedges" to assist with the searching process. The purpose of this report is to describe the design and methods of a study that set out to develop optimal search strategies for retrieving sound clinical studies of health disorders in large electronics databases.
To describe the design and methods of a study that set out to develop optimal search strategies for retrieving sound clinical studies of health disorders in large electronic databases.
An analytic survey comparing hand searches of 170 journals in the year 2000 with retrievals from MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO for candidate search terms and combinations. The sensitivity, specificity, precision, and accuracy of unique search terms and combinations of search terms were calculated.
A study design modeled after a diagnostic testing procedure with a gold standard (the hand search of the literature) and a test (the search terms) is an effective way of developing, testing, and validating search strategies for use in large electronic databases.
PMCID: PMC1183213  PMID: 15969765
4.  Optimal search strategies for identifying sound clinical prediction studies in EMBASE 
Clinical prediction guides assist clinicians by pointing to specific elements of the patient's clinical presentation that should be considered when forming a diagnosis, prognosis or judgment regarding treatment outcome. The numbers of validated clinical prediction guides are growing in the medical literature, but their retrieval from large biomedical databases remains problematic and this presents a barrier to their uptake in medical practice. We undertook the systematic development of search strategies ("hedges") for retrieval of empirically tested clinical prediction guides from EMBASE.
An analytic survey was conducted, testing the retrieval performance of search strategies run in EMBASE against the gold standard of hand searching, using a sample of all 27,769 articles identified in 55 journals for the 2000 publishing year. All articles were categorized as original studies, review articles, general papers, or case reports. The original and review articles were then tagged as 'pass' or 'fail' for methodologic rigor in the areas of clinical prediction guides and other clinical topics. Search terms that depicted clinical prediction guides were selected from a pool of index terms and text words gathered in house and through request to clinicians, librarians and professional searchers. A total of 36,232 search strategies composed of single and multiple term phrases were trialed for retrieval of clinical prediction studies. The sensitivity, specificity, precision, and accuracy of search strategies were calculated to identify which were the best.
163 clinical prediction studies were identified, of which 69 (42.3%) passed criteria for scientific merit. A 3-term strategy optimized sensitivity at 91.3% and specificity at 90.2%. Higher sensitivity (97.1%) was reached with a different 3-term strategy, but with a 16% drop in specificity. The best measure of specificity (98.8%) was found in a 2-term strategy, but with a considerable fall in sensitivity to 60.9%. All single term strategies performed less well than 2- and 3-term strategies.
The retrieval of sound clinical prediction studies from EMBASE is supported by several search strategies.
PMCID: PMC1097733  PMID: 15862125
5.  Developing optimal search strategies for detecting clinically sound and relevant causation studies in EMBASE 
Evaluating the existence and strength of an association between a putative cause and adverse clinical outcome is complex and best done by assessing all available evidence. With the increasing burden of chronic disease, greater time demands on health professionals, and the explosion of information, effective retrieval of best evidence has become both more important and more difficult. Optimal search retrieval can be hampered by a number of obstacles, especially poor search strategies, but using empirically tested methodological search filters can enhance the accuracy of searches for sound evidence concerning etiology. Although such filters have previously been developed for studies of relevance to causation in MEDLINE, no empirically tested search strategy exists for EMBASE.
An analytic survey was conducted, comparing hand searches of journals with retrievals from EMBASE for candidate search terms and combinations. 6 research assistants read all issues of 55 journals indexed in EMBASE. 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 scientific merit according to explicit criteria in the areas of causation (etiology) and other clinical topics. Candidate search strategies were developed for causation, then run in a subset of 55 EMBASE journals, the retrievals being compared with the hand search data. The sensitivity, specificity, precision, and accuracy of the search strategies were calculated.
Of the 1489 studies classified as causation, 14% were methodologically sound. When search terms were combined, sensitivity reached 92%. Compared with the best single-term strategy, the best combination of terms resulted in an absolute increase in sensitivity (19%) and specificity (5.2%). Maximizing specificity for combined terms resulted in an increase of 7.1% compared with the single term but this came at an expense of sensitivity (39% absolute decrease). A search strategy that optimized the trade-off between sensitivity and specificity achieved 81.9% for sensitivity and 81.4% for specificity.
We have discovered search strategies that retrieve high quality studies of causation from EMBASE with high sensitivity, high specificity, or an optimal balance of each.
PMCID: PMC1087487  PMID: 15784134

Results 1-5 (5)