Search wide, dig deep: literature searching for qualitative research. An analysis of the publication formats and information sources used for four systematic reviews in public health
When literature searching for systematic reviews, it is good practice to search widely across different information sources. Little is known about the contributions of different publication formats (e.g. journal article and book chapter) and sources, especially for studies of people's views.
Studies from four reviews spanning three public health areas (active transport, motherhood and obesity) were analysed in terms of publication formats and the information sources they were identified from. They comprised of 229 studies exploring people's perceptions, beliefs and experiences (‘views studies’) and were largely qualitative.
Although most (61%) research studies were published within journals, nearly a third (29%) were published as research reports and 5% were published in books. The remainder consisted of theses, conference papers and raw datasets. Two-thirds of studies (66%) were located in a total of 19 bibliographic databases, and 15 databases provided studies that were not identified elsewhere. PubMed was a good source for all reviews. Supplementary information sources were important for identifying studies in all publication formats.
Undertaking sensitive searches across a range of information sources is essential for locating views studies in all publication formats. We discuss some benefits and challenges of utilising different information sources. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.