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Title Perusing the Literature: Comparison of MEDLINE Searching with a Perinatal Trials Database
Author(s) Kay Dickersin; Peg Hewitt; Lesley Mutch; Iain Chalmers; and Thomas C. Chalmers
Source Controlled Clinical Trials, Vol. 6, Pages 306-317
Publication Date 1985
Abstract The existence of a Register of Controlled Trials in Perinatal Medicine (National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Oxford, England) has offered an opportunity to assess the efficacy of online searching of MEDLINE, an example of a broad bibliographic database. Retrieval of all relevant randomized clinical trials (RCTs) in a given field is important in analyses in which results are pooled (meta-analyses). Reports of RCT's of prevention and treatment of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia and prevention of intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) for the years 1966-1983 were sought in both the Register and MEDLINE files. Comparison of subject searches revealed a number of unlisted papers in each file that were then found to be present by an author search. In the MEDLINE searching an amateur was clearly less efficient than an expert, but the expert recovered only 29 percent of the relevant hyperbilirubinemia papers present in MEDLINE, and only 56 percent of the identified IVH RCTs. Some of the deficiencies in recovery have been corrected by indexing improvements, such as the capability of identifying text words in abstracts, and the addition of new medical subject heading terms (MeSH) such as RANDOM ALLOCATION. Efficiency will best be facilitated by authors and editors keeping the MeSH terms used by MEDLINE indexers in mind when they compose titles and abstracts.

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