SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information

The objective was to gain an overview of researchers experiences of searching the literature, with particular reference to the use of optimal search strategies (OSSs) and searching for qualitative research studies. A 13-item semi-structured questionnaire investigating search behaviour was distributed to members of the Cochrane Qualitative Methods Network. Follow-up interviews were conducted with a subset of respondents to explore issues raised and clarify points of ambiguity. Findings were analysed using data reduction, data displays and verification techniques. Eighty-six per cent of distributed questionnaires were returned. All respondents reported searching electronic databases as part of their literature search, with 80% expressing a preference for searching alone or with colleagues. Forty-one per cent indicated that they consider a database search to be only one aspect of a comprehensive literature search. The rigour and availability of OSSs was a concern for 30% of respondents. Twenty-five per cent of respondents had searched for qualitative studies, although the difficulty of locating this type of literature was considered problematic because of the varied use of the term ‘qualitative’. Whilst the majority of respondents reported using OSSs in some capacity, reservations were expressed about their ability to facilitate a comprehensive search. Replies indicated a belief that OSSs can reduce the sensitivity of a search, and might limit the breadth of coverage required. A greater appreciation of the availability and purpose of OSSs—including the ability to optimize either sensitivity or recall—is needed if this enhanced approach to accurate data retrieval and potential improvement in time management is to become widespread.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information

Good access is essential for the effective uptake of research evidence.1 Rubin et al.2 suggest that electronic databases provide a possible solution in facilitating rapid access to research evidence. However, whilst library and information services are increasingly ensuring electronic databases are available to the users, access is not the sole solution.

In 1992, Abate3 conducted a study of on-line services (‘BRS Colleague’ and ‘Dialog Medical Connection’) providing drug information sources. Access to between 100 and 200 databases was offered to office and clinic based physicians and nurses and University based pharmacists in West Virginia, USA. Despite the wealth of information and potential resources (including a large range of subject specific databases) being available, medline was accessed an average of 62% (53–71%) of cases where an information need had prompted a database search. However, the use of the service was generally limited, with a lack of time cited as a contributing factor. Whilst studies have demonstrated the need for information in most health consultations,4 overall usage of information retrieval systems by health care professionals remains low.5

With the advent of evidence-based medicine in the early 1990s came the recognition of the potentially detrimental effects of missing sections of the evidence base when making healthcare decisions. To mitigate against this potential problem, librarians quickly became involved in seeking to optimize the way in which evidence was retrieved from databases, developing complex search strategies as a means for those inexperienced in constructing advanced searches to search more effectively. At that time, the optimal search strategies (OSSs) focused primarily on searching for quantitative research methodologies.6–11

Prior to the First World War, qualitative research methodologies were widely accepted and used.12 However, since this time, quantitative research has been in ascendance, and those who do not conform to its methodological imperative have been required to justify themselves. The late 1970s saw researchers being encouraged to view the differences between quantitative and qualitative methodologies as merely representing different emphasis,13 and in 1997 it was suggested that, depending on what you were aiming to achieve, the research question should determine the research method adopted.14,15 This was a point reiterated by Murphy12 and Toth16 when they suggested that the research topic or search question should determine the relative value of a methodology.

Lipman17 reinforced this view when he stated that the usefulness and relevance of research evidence determines the applicability of the evidence as much as its position in hierarchies of evidence.18,19 More recently still, Popay et al.20 emphasized that qualitative research can make two distinct contributions in answering research questions; either as an enhancement to quantitative research, or as an entirely independent methodology. For example, whilst a quantitative method such as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) can assist in identifying the differing effects of two interventions, qualitative research methods such as a case study design might determine why these effects have taken place.

Despite these declarations it was suggested in 1997,21 and again in 2001,22 that ‘it is not usual to search for qualitative research as a specific research type’, the implication being that it is adequate to search by subject. However, the question posed itself, why should this be the case when more complex search techniques are promoted as integral in identifying quantitative research evidence?6–11

Searching for qualitative research

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information

In 1998, the Health Care Practice Research and Development Unit (HCPRDU), University of Salford was commissioned by the Department of Health to undertake a feasibility study of undertaking systematic reviews that drew on both high quality quantitative and qualitative research evidence.23 In the belief that it is as important to be systematic in the literature searches that support the reviews as it is to be systematic in the appraisal and synthesis of the literature retrieved,24,25 questions around appropriate search practices began to form. Whilst confident that the majority of quantitative research studies had been accurately identified, uncertainty remained about the breadth of coverage of qualitative literature. Had the chances of identifying qualitative literature been maximized purely through the subject searches undertaken?

The interest in, and recognition of, the potential contribution that diverse types of evidence including qualitative studies,14,26 and the HCPRDU experiences of searching for qualitative research studies, led to the question: how are other researchers seeking to identify qualitative research evidence?

Survey of current search practice

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information

To investigate researchers’ experiences of searching for qualitative research evidence, and explore whether their concerns about accessing the evidence base matched those of HCPRDU staff, a survey was undertaken in the Spring of 2000. The survey sought to:

  • • 
    Identify existing literature searching practices with particular reference to identifying qualitative research studies.
  • • 
    Investigate the knowledge and experience of using optimal search strategies (OSSs) by researchers as part of their literature searches.
  • • 
    Explore what role, if any, OSSs can play in researchers routine literature searches.

Population

Given the relative novelty of the subject area, it was important to identify an accessible group of professionals with an expressed interest in qualitative research. The Cochrane Qualitative Methods Network (CQMN) was quickly identified as meeting these criteria, drawing its 40-strong membership from across the globe (including signatories from Australia, France, India, Norway and the USA, as well as England, Scotland and Wales). The Network represented a discrete group of researchers with a declared interest in qualitative research, its home page stating its intention to ‘explore the ways in which qualitative research might enrich … and identify methodological issues.’27

Methodology

A questionnaire, enabling both quantitative and qualitative data to be assembled and over a relatively short time frame, was the primary tool for data collection. It sought to identify reported search practices, and gain insight into the perceptions and knowledge of OSSs. The survey was supplemented by semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of respondents to explore issues raised and clarify points of ambiguity.

Questionnaire design.  A 13-item questionnaire was developed to investigate existing general searching behaviour. Specific issues relating to the identification of qualitative research evidence and use of optimal search strategies were also explored. The questionnaire was piloted on a purposive sample of five researchers selected on the basis of being known to the author, whilst being representative of the population of interest, that is, those with an expressed interest in using qualitative research evidence. The pilot population had a range of research experience (4–20 years). One member of the pilot population had also been qualified as an Information Scientist since 1992, and was able to provide specific feedback on the literature searching component of the questionnaire.

Once face and content validity were assured, a revised cover letter and a 13-point questionnaire were prepared ready for distribution. The questionnaire was divided into five sections: personal details, literature searching, access to resources, experiences of literature searching and qualitative research methodologies of interest.

Section one of the questionnaire was designed to clarify members’ interests and involvement in research, with particular reference to qualitative research. It was anticipated there might be differences in literature searching practice dependent on the respondents’ stated research background. Involvement in qualitative research as compared with research generally was also of potential significance in seeking to discern any evidence of the ebb and flow of methodological popularity reported in the literature.

The impact of the way in which searches were undertaken were explored in sections two (routine literature searching preferences), three (type of electronic resources available to—and used by—researchers), four (identifying a ‘typical’ range of times and experiences), and five (types of qualitative research of most interest to participants work) of the questionnaire.

Acknowledging the advanced search techniques promoted in identifying quantitative research evidence,6–11 particular interest lay in the awareness, availability and use of optimal search strategies (OSSs) in searching for literature. A brief definition of OSSs was provided in order to enhance comprehension, thereby increasing the number of valid responses received.

Respondents were asked to indicate whether they would be willing to participate in follow-up interviews. Where difficulties arose in contacting interviewees by telephone, e-mails would be sent to request further information. Confidentially was assured.

Distribution of survey

The questionnaire was distributed by e-mail to all 40 members of the CQMN.28 E-mails were personalised29 in recognition that a low response rate is a potential source of bias within survey results. The questionnaire was incorporated into the text of the e-mail message in addition to being sent as word attachments (Windows95 and WordPerfect5). Clear piloted instructions were provided to enable easy self completion of the questionnaire,29 and reminders incorporating a copy of the questionnaire were sent 1 week after the suggested return date.29

It was assumed that Network members receiving the questionnaire in this format were most likely to return it electronically. However, a return postal address and fax number were provided in the event of respondents having an alternative preference. A stamped addressed envelope was also offered.

Analysis of survey

Of the 40 members listed as part of the CQMN, 35 members were included in the sample. Five were excluded on the basis of either being untraceable, permanent errors occurring with their e-mail accounts, or being the author. The Network co-ordinator was advised of amendments or alterations to the contact details of members as they came to light.

Subsequent to follow-up letters being sent, 31 of the 35 possible respondents replied. One respondent declined to participate in the study, based on their preference for pure qualitative research methods; believing ‘the very concept’ of questionnaires to be methodologically flawed. This represented a response rate of 86% (n = 30).

Replies were randomly assigned an alphabetic code, to ensure anonymity, whilst permitting an audit trail to be created of responses received.

Data—both qualitative and quantitative—were continuously selected and transformed into matrices, graphs and charts for ease of accessibility, and verified through excursions back to the questionnaire.30 Data collected from a purposive sample of structured telephone interviews with respondents, exploring issues raised and clarifying points of ambiguity, were incorporated into the matrices.

Findings

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information

Of the 30 respondents, 28 classified themselves as academics/researchers, two as research practitioners and one as an administrator. In 40% of cases, respondents reported fewer years practising qualitative research than totalled their years involved with research (Fig. 1).

image

Figure 1. Research practice. Data were recorded as missing for one respondent, who reported their years in qualitative research (6–10 years) were greater than their number of years in research (1–5 years)

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Literature searching

Having confirmed that all respondents had a reasonable level of literature searching activity (defined as having initiated at least one literature search in the past 12-month period), clarification was sought on the precise nature of reported search practices.

Eighty per cent of respondents stated performing searches independently or with a colleague as their first preference, whilst requesting a Librarian to search with or on their behalf accounted for just 17% of first choice searches (Fig. 2). One respondent reported that ‘I would search with a Librarian for any major searches where I needed professional advice on strategies’.

image

Figure 2. Searching preferences

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Resources and search interfaces

All respondents reported searching electronic databases as part of their literature search, 67% supplementing their database searches with hand searches of printed indexes. Several respondents reported ‘the need for multiple pathways to achieve optimal quality’, whilst another noted that ‘searching databases is a very small part of what I call a literature search … I would [also] rely on hand searching libraries (‘pootling’) and talking to colleagues’.

Thirteen respondents employed additional search techniques as part of their literature trawl, 10 in supplement to searching printed indexes. These included: 17% using citation tracking (following up references listed in the bibliographies of papers and reports), 13% hand searching journals, and 10% either contacting colleagues or authors in the field, or utilizing specialist libraries or websites, e.g. Department of Health.

As might be anticipated, medline, the largest biomedical database available, was the most frequently searched database in the sample (97%), followed by the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) (77%), cinahl (67%) and the Cochrane Library (67%) (see Fig. 3). Respondents also noted a range of alternative databases in addition to those named in the questionnaire. Included amongst these were the National Research Register (NRR), Science Citation Index (SCI), the databases of the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, locally available OPACs, and the Norwegian ‘BibSys’ system (Fig. 3).

image

Figure 3. Databases searched

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The most frequently used interface to access these databases was BIDS (the Bath Information and Data Service facilitating access to: embase, the Science Citation Index (SCI) and the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI))—67%, SilverPlatter (facilitating access to cinahl and medline)—53%, PubMed (a free Internet-based medline service offering methodological search filters)—37% and Ovid (facilitating access to cinahl and medline)—30% (Fig. 4).

image

Figure 4. Search interface used

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Searching practice

When asked to indicate how long was spent on their most recent literature search, 13 of the 30 respondents (43%) reported that they spent up to 3 hours searching. The majority of respondents reported a day or less spent searching for relevant literature (63%). Of those respondents professing to search for up to 1 month (10%), half made reference to searching in relation to either a literature or systematic review (Fig. 5). Several respondents qualified their answers, indicating that ‘[the time spent] will depend on the topic and the purpose for which I am searching’, ‘searching varies with the type of search’, and ‘this varies really so much depending on the reason for the searching and the subject’.

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Figure 5. ‘Typical’ range of search times. Although respondents were requested to think back to the last time they searched, three respondents indicated that the time spent searching varied. Data were recorded as missing for one respondent, who reported that a Librarian, on their behalf, undertook their last search for published research. Additionally, the reply from a further respondent was ambiguous. However, it was not possible to clarify this reply, as the respondent had indicated that they did not wish to participate in any follow-up contact

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The next section of the questionnaire was concerned with the purpose and type of searches undertaken. Respondents were asked to share their experiences—if any—of searching for specific types of research methodology. Seven of the 30 respondents had not undertaken methodologically based literature searches, with an eighth respondent choosing to search across methods and then categorize papers. Equal numbers (25%) had searched for qualitative studies as had experience of searching for randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Only one of these respondents stated they had used published optimal search strategies such as those developed by the Cochrane Collaboration, the Health Libraries Unit in Oxford, the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination or those available on PubMed. The use of a hierarchy of evidence ‘in descending order from systematic reviews, randomised, double-blind, controlled trials, randomised trials, non-experimental studies’ was raised by one respondent in their pursuit of research literature.

To gain insight into respondents experiences and awareness of optimal search strategies (OSSs), respondents were questioned whether they had used, or considered using, an OSS. Whilst two respondents stated that they did not know OSSs existed, or that they had ‘no idea’ what they were, others stated that they had not known about them at the time of searching. Despite the provision of a definition of OSSs, one respondent proclaimed to be ‘unclear about this term’, whilst reporting elsewhere they had used all three levels of the Cochrane Collaboration's OSS.

There were enthusiastic supporters of OSSs, with some respondents stating ‘my experiences had been that the filters are effective for identifying relevant literature’, and that OSSs were ‘very good’ and ‘bloody marvellous’. A high level of awareness regarding search strategy development was demonstrated by one respondent, who acknowledged the need for search strategies to be modified to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of a particular database and interface as important. In particular, one respondent reported that existing OSSs need to be ‘modified by our information specialist so as to not crash our system’.

Whilst most respondents reported a willingness to use an OSS, 30% of respondents expressed reservations about using OSSs. Of these, two questioned being able to select papers without having sight of them, stating ‘[I] can’t think how you’d know what was relevant until you’d looked at it!’ This was a common concern, reflected in the following comment ‘I want to see all papers myself and make my own judgements’. These were issues echoed by those concerned with critical appraisal ‘reviewing often involves critiquing methodology, so I would do my own quality assessment’ and ‘[I] like to assess the appropriateness of the methods and the acceptability of the conclusions myself’.

The number of references potentially retrieved by OSSs was of general concern. One respondent stated ‘I generally want key references and find the volume produced by electronic searches to be largely irrelevant’. Whilst OSSs ‘can obviously be very helpful when a finely tuned search question is available’, three respondents expressed a desire to search widely, often across methodology, and were anxious not to exclude potentially relevant information. For example: ‘we didn’t use a filter as we wished to identify all relevant research regardless of methodology’ and ‘[the] philosophy we use re-searching is to do as wide a search as possible and then eliminate or include reports on an individual basis. We have found that the more prescriptive you are, the more studies of relevance we miss.’ This final point was reiterated by another respondent who stated that ‘we find that quality filters reduce the sensitivity of searches, especially when we are not interested only in RCTs … I don’t seek specific qualitative methodologies, but do a subject search and scan the abstracts’. More generally, one respondent commented that ‘I could see they would be useful just for assessing the evidence base in a subject area, but they would be less useful for more extensive literature reviews’.

The rigour of OSSs remained a concern for some who suggested that ‘the quality of the filters is dependent on the quality of the indexing of each particular database’, ‘sometimes I don’t use a filter because …[the database is] poorly indexed’ and ‘[OSSs] should not be used exclusively due to problems with keywords and mesh terms assigned to studies’.

Only three respondents did not perceive OSSs as relevant to their work. Two respondents stated that they had ‘never needed to’ use OSSs, a third respondent who was specifically seeking to find qualitative research evidence added ‘the quality filters seem to have been developed mainly for RCTs, as far as I know’.

Qualitative research?

It appeared that there was a disparity between respondents’ understandings and perceptions of the distinctions between research tools and research designs, a point emphasized by one respondent who indicated that ‘one difficulty in locating qual. studies is the varied/imprecise use of the term “qualitative” (res. design vs. data collection method)’. This was emphasized by the wide range of study designs and collection methods cited by respondents as being considered of importance in developing a search strategy for qualitative research evidence (Fig. 6).

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Figure 6. Illustrative list of study designs and collection methods identified by respondents

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Disagreement also existed in respondents’ preferences for purely qualitative studies vs. qualitative studies triangulated with quantitative methodologies. This echoes the two differing roles outlines by Popay et al.22

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information

Eighty per cent of respondents expressed a preference for conducting their literature searches either alone or with colleagues, with just 17% choosing to search alongside their librarian (10%) or asking them to search on their behalf (6.6%). This is similar to findings from previous studies.31 Clarification is required as to the points of database access, although given the increased availability of networked and Internet-based resources, the level of independent end-user searching is perhaps unsurprising. The question of whether respondents search independently as a matter of choice, or as a result of reticence to request a mediated search in the prevailing culture of end user searching32 remains unknown.

A need for education

Gash,33 Greenhalgh34 and Snowball35 have written on the process of conducting an effective literature search, and the outcomes of literature searches are naturally affected by the skills level of the individual conducting the search. This represents a challenge for library and information professionals in ensuring that end users have the knowledge and means to optimize the use of technology and undertake a structured approach in their searching. Many libraries already provide end-user training, and 70% of respondents demonstrated regular contact with librarians and use of library facilities when employing additional techniques such as hand searching, obtaining papers for citation tracking, and searching printed indexes as part of their literature search. Respondents also appeared to value combining expertise when literature searching as part of a ‘major search’, coupling their subject knowledge with the searching knowledge of librarians. A further exploration of what prompts respondents to define a search as ‘major’ is required.

Optimal search strategies (OSSs)

Haynes et al.36 have suggested that using OSSs can facilitate more thorough database searches in a shorter time frame and, whilst the majority of OSSs continue to relate to quantitative methodologies,6–11 search strategies to optimize the retrieval of qualitative research evidence are emerging.37,38 Notwithstanding respondents willingness to use OSSs as part of their literature-searching process, the rigour and availability of OSSs was a concern for 30% of respondents. Respondents expressed reservations about being able to select papers without having sight of them, and were anxious not to exclude potentially relevant information.

The context in which OSSs are most relevant was unclear to many respondents, who questioned their use on the basis that they might miss some papers of potential relevance. A primary source of this concern could be the use of terminology associated with OSSs, in particular the use of the term ‘quality filter’. Clearly, a search strategy is not able to make evaluations on the basis of quality—a perception possibly ‘bound up’ with those inherent in the hierarchy of evidence. At the time of the survey the majority of research-based OSSs—which have frequently been referred to as ‘quality filters’—related to methodologies at the ‘top’ of the evidence hierarchy, e.g. RCTs. However, because a study purports to use a particular study design that has traditionally been viewed as being at the top of the hierarchy of evidence does not necessarily infer quality. The onus to conduct critical appraisal assessment to evaluate the appropriateness and relevance of the study design and research findings remains paramount.

Nor does the term ‘filter’ accurately reflect how an OSS actually works. Rather than ‘filtering’ out irrelevant materials, it seeks to identify more accurately potentially relevant materials by overcoming the limitations of indexing and reported methodologies. That is, it aims to be more inclusive rather than less.

The level of awareness of OSSs and reservations concerning their use raises the issue of a need for better dissemination of information concerning OSSs. The survey results suggest real ambiguity exists as to the nature of optimal search strategies, the purpose for which they have been designed, and of appropriate occasions in which they can be most usefully employed. This is particularly apparent in comments questioning the usefulness of OSSs in databases that are poorly indexed—the very specific issue that OSSs have been developed to mitigate against.

Database searches can be undertaken for a range of purposes, whether conducting an inclusive search for a systematic review, or for a task at hand such as a research proposal or paper presentation. For the latter, the volume of papers retrieved by highly sensitive optimal search strategies could be potentially overwhelming, with high numbers of irrelevant papers retrieved in order to ensure comprehensive coverage of the evidence base. In these instances, an OSS that seeks to retrieve papers in a more targeted and precise way should be considered. Several OSSs have been devised in multiple levels with this issue in mind.8,39

Qualitative research

Murphy et al.12 reported the perceived relevance and subsequent application fluctuations of qualitative and quantitative methodologies over time. The current preference for quantitative methodologies is reflected in the evidence hierarchies,20,21 and the levels of research experience reported by respondents. All but one respondent reported coming to qualitative research an average of 5 years later than quantitative research. In addition, the phrase ‘good quality research’1 has been used synonymously with research that is of a ‘gold standard’, that is, research that appears at the top of the Canadian Task Force hierarchy of evidence.18 However, the inclusion of a wider range of research methodologies in a more recently developed and broader hierarchy of evidence,19 bears witness to the increasing recognition of the potential contribution, value and importance that qualitative research can offer.12,25

Sources of research evidence

medline was the most commonly used database by respondents, although it is unclear whether this is because it is the database of choice in seeking qualitative research, or simply the most easily accessible database. In seeking to optimize searches, several projects have been undertaken to identify the most appropriate database, or combination of databases, for particular topic areas.40 Given the increasingly explicit contribution qualitative research evidence can contribute to health-care provision, further investigation is required to identify whether medline is the most appropriate source of literature, either singularly, or in combination with other resources.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information

The survey was designed to provide a snapshot of search experiences for a group with a declared interest in qualitative research methods. Given the composition of the population surveyed—primarily researchers—the question of the generalisability of their responses to wider groups of health care practitioners is raised. For example, whereas 50% of respondents indicated that they conducted searches as part of a literature or systematic review, it is anticipated that health-care practitioners are more likely to conduct a literature research in response to a clinical question.

Whilst acknowledging the inconsistent use of terminology in relation to qualitative research, and the desire to search widely, respondents demonstrated a willingness to use OSSs as one of a range of complementary techniques in their literature searching. It is anticipated that, with a greater level of awareness about the purpose of OSSs, and available strategies covering a wider range of methodologies, this approach to literature searching will become more widespread.

With time pressures cited as a problem for health-care professionals in implementing research evidence, OSSs could provide a reliable solution. The provision of pre-loaded OSSs on databases could also contribute to the undertaking of effective literature searches, providing a structured means of searching for end users.

Government policy emphasizes the role of librarians in supporting clinicians and managers in accessing the information they need.41 As a profession we are providing an increasingly consistent package of training support to their service users, introducing, enhancing and systematizing end-users’ awareness and knowledge of search concepts. For example, the importance of defining an appropriate search question, using MESH headings or indexing terms, and the use of Boolean operators. As users seek to maximize the rigour of their searches, and recognition of the relative merits of alternative modes of evidence grows, a further element should be considered for inclusion in the training programme—that of optimal search strategies. In increasing end-users’ awareness of OSSs, and the potential contribution OSSs, we can seek to enhance end-user searches, both in terms of accurate retrieval and improved time management in these ‘time-poor’ days.

Note

The questionnaire referred to in this article is available from http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/products/journals/suppmat/hir/hir483/hir483sm.htm or in hard copy from the author.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information

This project was undertaken as part of a Masters in Health Information Management at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. The survey was partly financed by Research Support Fund (RSF) of the Institute of Health Research, University of Salford. Thanks go to Andrew F. Long (University of Salford) for acting as my RSF supervisor, and to Alison Brettle (University of Salford), Sarah Buckland (Involve, Eastleigh), Melanie Chapman (Manchester Learning Disabilities Partnership), Fran Christopher (Involve, Eastleigh), Richard Stephens (University of Keele) and Christine Urquhart (University of Wales, Aberystwyth) for piloting and commenting on the questionnaire and covering letter. Thanks also to the members of the Cochrane Qualitative Methods Network for agreeing to participate in the survey, and to Michelle Howarth (University of Salford) for commenting on early incarnations of this paper.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information
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Supporting Information

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Searching for qualitative research
  5. Survey of current search practice
  6. Findings
  7. Discussion
  8. Conclusion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Supporting Information

Appendix S1. Appendix 1: 13 item questionnaire.

FilenameFormatSizeDescription
HIR_483_sm_AppendixA1.doc45KSupporting info item

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