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Designing Search Strategies for Systematic Reviews

Christi Piper, MLIS
Health Sciences Library
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Liz Kellermeyer, MSLS
Library & Knowledge Services
National Jewish Health

In April we attended Designing Search Strategies for Systematic Reviews presented by the Bernard Becker Medical Library at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. This training was made possible by generous professional development awards provided by the MidContinental Region of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.

The award application asked us to consider what we expected to learn from this event and how we could implement the knowledge gained at our respective institutions. Christi, who works at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health Sciences Library, was responding to an increased demand for librarians to be involved in the systematic review process and needed additional training before jumping into the complex searches. Liz, who works at National Jewish Health in Denver, was beginning her involvement on several practice guideline teams and also thought she would benefit from learning how to design and organize advanced searches.

The workshop was two full days of training that consisted of presentations and hands-on exercises at the Farrell Learning and Teaching Center. The training was centered on working through a case study exercise starting with a request for a systematic review search all the way through to delivering the search results and the methods section for publication. Topics included systematic review guidelines, working with patrons, designing the search (including term harvesting, designing concept hedges, combining hedges, and translating the search for multiple databases), searching grey literature resources, delivering results, and writing the methods section for publication. The instructors provided best practices, tips, and strategies for each stage of the systematic review process. The hands-on portions of the course were very beneficial for learning in real time and getting immediate feedback from the instructors and peers.

The workshop is intended for medical and health sciences librarians, but some participants were social sciences librarians, specifically for psychology. The search strategies and techniques taught were applicable for any librarian who works on comprehensive searches and wants to improve their skills. While the workshop does not provide specific database instruction, they did provide some tips and tricks for searching several medical databases and grey literature sources, and for translating searches between major biomedical databases. The instructors, Michelle Doering, Angela Hardi, Laura Simon, and Lauren Yaeger, were very knowledgeable and provided expert feedback about all aspects of collaborating on a systematic review.

Liz appreciated the scope of the class and how it specifically walked participants through the searching stages of the systematic review process. She plans on integrating many of the tips into her work with practice guidelines, specifically the template for writing the methods section. With the growing interest in systematic review software that guides researchers through a full review, she can see the advantage of librarians being familiar with the entire process and would welcome a course that focused on learning about the later stages of a systematic review.

Christi valued that the training provided a clear structure to what the systematic review process could be. The only drawback of the course design was that the group tasks sometimes were not given enough time and it was difficult to work with the entire assigned group due to the room layout. Some of the most valuable pieces of information that she returned with were ideas for how to standardize the systematic review process in a team by creating templates and process guidelines within an organization. With the demand for professional search services quickly growing at CU Anschutz and other institutions, she thinks that a course on managing professional search services would be beneficial.

For someone who is new to systematic review searching or looking to begin offering a systematic review service in their library, this training gives a thorough overview of the collaboration process by walking participants through each stage of a search. Enrollment is limited and filled up quickly for this session, but you can join the waitlist and receive early notification for the next time the course is offered. You can find more information about the training and how to join the waitlist on this LibGuide: http://beckerguides.wustl.edu/c.php?g=604551&p=4190019.

The MidContinental Messenger is published quarterly by the Network of the National Library of Medicine MidContinental Region

Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library
University of Utah
10 North 1900 East, Building 589
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-5890

Editor: Suzanne Sawyer, Project Coordinator
(801) 587-3487

This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012344 with the University of Utah Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.

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