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How to get the most from the medical literature: Searching the medical literature effectively

Authors

  • ANGELA C WEBSTER,

    Corresponding author
    1. Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney,
    2. Cochrane Renal Group, Centre for Kidney Research, Children's Hospital at Westmead, and
    3. Centre for Transplant and Renal Research, University of Sydney at Westmead Hospital, Westmead, New South Wales, Australia; and
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  • NICHOLAS B CROSS,

    1. Department of Nephrology, Canterbury District Health Board, and
    2. Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
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  • RUTH MITCHELL,

    1. Cochrane Renal Group, Centre for Kidney Research, Children's Hospital at Westmead, and
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  • JONATHAN C CRAIG

    1. Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney,
    2. Cochrane Renal Group, Centre for Kidney Research, Children's Hospital at Westmead, and
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  • Source of funding and disclosure of potential conflicts of interest: There was no financial support for this work. ACW teaches a course called ‘literature searching’ which is part of the Clinical Epidemiology degree programme, and JCC is the Sub-Dean of Clinical Epidemiology at the Sydney School of Public Health, University of Syndey. No author declares any other potential conflict of interest.

  • Authorship contributions: ACW conceived and designed the paper, created the tables and figures, and drafted and revised the manuscript. NBC contributed to the design of the paper, and drafting and revision of the manuscript. RM designed the search strategies, and contributed to drafting and revision of the manuscript. JCC contributed to the design of the paper, and drafting and revision of the manuscript.

  • Want to learn more about how to search the biomedical literature more effectively? Feel that you could do more to improve your information literacy? The University of Sydney offers a Master's level online distance learning short course on Literature Searching through its Clinical Epidemiology professional development programme. See http://www.health.usyd.edu.au/future/profdevelopment/introclinepi.php or contact the corresponding author for more details.

Dr Angela C Webster, School of Public Health, Edward Ford Building A27, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Email: angela.webster@gmail.com

ABSTRACT:

Different clinical questions are best answered using different study designs. This paper describes the best methods for finding relevant studies for well-framed clinical questions. We focus on which database is best to search to answer your question, describe the structure of effective search strategies and explore ways to develop appropriate search terms. We illustrate these with sensitive and specific search strategies to answer different clinical questions arising from a hypothetical clinical scenario typical of a nephrologist's everyday practice.

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