Available Until 12/31/2024

Effectiveness and Efficiency in Exhaustive Searches*


For more information or to schedule this course, please contact Wichor Bramer <w.bramer@erasmusmc.nl>.

In this face-to-face course, experienced information specialists designing searches for systematic reviews will be taught a new method using which exhaustive search strategies can be created much faster while maintaining high sensitivity and acceptable precision. After some demonstrations and exercises with a general joint research question, participants can work in their own database of choice on their own (or their customer's) research questions. An experienced information specialist, designing 200 exhaustive searches per year (mainly for SRs), will guide them individually through the process. Participants will learn a coding structure that helps them create complicated search strategies more easily, optimization methods that help identify extra words on any topic, and methods to semi-automatically translate search strategies between databases and interfaces using macros in MS Word. After the workshop the participants wil be able to create complex searches, that are checked for completeness, and have been translated in different databases much faster than with traditional methods.

This course is an approved elective for Level I of the Systematic Review Services Specialization.

Learning Objectives

• Participants will be able to use the new search method to create complex search strategies for systematic reviews

• Participants will be able to optimize their search strategies with the methods described to identify missed relevant search terms

• Participants can translate search strategies with the developed macros


0:00 presentation
Analyzing a research question – elements and key concepts in a research question – bias and duplicates in elements

0:20 classical discussion
Using a standard research question: Which elements are important, specific or general - Which elements should be used in a search strategy

0:30 individual exercise & pairwise discussion
Using participants' individual research questions: Which elements are important, specific or general - Which elements should be used in a search strategy

0:45 demonstration
Differences between thesauruses of emtree and medline - Using participants' individual research questions : which thesaurus terms can be found for these elements – what other synonyms can be found in the thesauruses

1:15 classical exercise
Find as much terms as possible on an example topic

1:30 individual exercise
Using participants' individual research questions : find thesaurus terms and synonyms


2:00 demonstration - individual exercise
Efficient ways to create complex search strategies. Using a standard research question: The teacher demonstrates one element, participants copy the method - Participants create the other elements individually

2:45 individual exercise
Using participants' individual research questions : participants use the new method to create a search strategy for their own research question in their own database and interface of choice (Ovid, embase.com, EBSCOhost, ProQuest or PubMed are supported).

3:30 participants' presentation
2 or 3 participants present their search strategies


4:00 demonstration
Optimization of the basic search strategy – How to find extra relevant search terms in the articles already retrieved – how to make sure no relevant references are missed by the search

4:15 individual exercise
Using participants' individual research questions : optimization

4:45 presentation / discussion
Which databases are necessary for an exhaustive search

5:00 demonstration / individual exercise
Translation of the optimized search strategy into various databases (embase.com, Medline Ovid, Cochrane library, Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed as supplied by publisher, Cinahl, Google Scholar)


6:00 presentation / discussion
What is new of this method – How is it different than traditional methods – Finding and using filters – Using relevance ranking – Database and interface choice – what has been the effect of this method for the developers

(7:00 demonstration – optional if time allows)
Additional services for systematic reviewers in EndNote: deduplication of references – inclusion / exclusion using EndNote – semi-automatic citation tracking using endnote and Scopus

Facility Requirements

Presenter will bring his own laptop, beamer needed. Participants should have individual computers with internet access, and MS Word If possible access to major databases (Medline / Embase via Ovid) but participants will be asked to bring their own institutional access via VPN or alike.


MLA CE Credits: 6, 8