Effectiveness of bibliographic searches performed by paediatric residents and interns assisted by librarians. A randomised controlled trial


Paolo Gardois, School of Health and Related Research, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 4DA, UK, E-mail: pgardois@gmail.com


Background:  Considerable barriers still prevent paediatricians from successfully using information retrieval technology.

Objectives:  To verify whether the assistance of biomedical librarians significantly improves the outcomes of searches performed by paediatricians in biomedical databases using real-life clinical scenarios.

Methods:  In a controlled trial at a paediatric teaching hospital, nine residents and interns were randomly allocated to an assisted search group and nine to a non-assisted (control) group. Each participant searched PubMed and other online sources, performing pre-determined tasks including the formulation of a clinical question, retrieval and selection of bibliographic records. In the assisted group, participants were supported by a librarian with ≥5 years of experience. The primary outcome was the success of search sessions, scored against a specific assessment tool.

Results:  The median score of the assisted group was 73.6 points interquartile range (IQR = 13.4) vs. 50.4 (IQR = 17.1) of the control group. The difference between median values in the results was 23.2 points (95% CI 4.8–33.2), in favour of the assisted group (P-value, Mann–Whitney U test: 0.013).

Conclusions:  The study has found quantitative evidence of a significant difference in search performance between paediatric residents or interns assisted by a librarian and those searching the literature alone.