My first systematic search

Remote access to card catalog

As a library student, you don’t get many chances to really dig your teeth into searching databases, unless you’re working on a thesis or have a really extraordinary work opportunity. Basic reference as a student usually involves basic searches for patrons, maybe some instruction, more than a little help given to new or remedial library users. This is why my experience with a systematic search team will be so memorable as a learning experience as I begin to launch my career as a health librarian.

I got involved with the Research and Evaluation Subcommittee of the Canadian Interprofessional Health Collaborative (CIHC / @cihc_ca) through my work as the Assets Manager of the CIHC’s interprofessional repository, the CIHC Library. I worked there until just recently collecting curricula and other materials supporting interprofessional education programs in the health sciences across Canada. Though supporting the research subcommittee was a little beyond my job description (and, frankly, my qualifications as a first-year library student), there wasn’t anyone else there with library experience, so I agreed I would put my brain in the pot to help where I could.

The research question we want to answer is “what quantitative tools are being used to measure the outcomes of interprofessional education and collaborative practice?” The goal is to examine the tools used to measure interprofessional education (IPE) programs, and ultimately the group will produce a review of these tools and their perceived effectiveness (a kind of meta-analysis, in that way).

Interprofessional literature is hard to come by in the first place because it is so fragmented–there are elements of medicine, nursing, social work, psychology and education that blend and make for a difficult information landscape. On top of that the facet of finding specific methodological tools that are being used to evaluate IPE was another complexity.

We are a large committee scattered across Canada, communicating mostly via email. Many people in the group have experience doing searching for interprofessional literature, but none of us (I think) had carried out a search on the scale required to ensure a comprehensive and unbiased review. I was also of course doing other research at the time and was involved in one of the busiest semesters (coursework-wise) of my degree. After some trial and error, and some help from a number of other resources, we did a first round of searching in the winter of 2009. But the act of coordinating a search that has so many facets as a librarian-in-training was a daunting and at times quite stressful task.

complex schematic drawing

Just recently, I went back to review the searches we had done in Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, ERIC, PsycINFO and Web of Science. My knowledge over the five months has increased immensely, bolstered by my own research experience for a directed study project as well as coursework in health librarianship and reference experience in the hospital library branch of UBC (under medlib blogger, Dean Giustini). I asked for some “gold-standard” articles that the group had found to mine for relevant MeSH headings (following advice from a great slidedeck on systematic reviews by yet another medlib blogger @pfanderson), and took advantage of UBC’s subscription to OvidSP Medline and its adjacency operator (“adj#”) to increase recall.

I’d like to think that our second round of searching is a much better and more comprehensive strategy — but even if it’s not, I’ll always remember the astounding amount of committment and work it takes to put together a truly systematic search strategy. I was a great learning experience for me as a student, and one that will greatly inform my practice as a new health librarian. I’d like to share what we came up with for this second round, and if you have any feedback, it would be warmly welcome as I continue to learn and practice in this early stage of my career.

The search

This was executed in OvidSP on May 3, 2010.
Facet 1: Interprofessional education and related phrases
1. ((inter$disciplin$ or inter-disciplin$) adj5 (education$ or learning$ or practice$ or care or instruction$)).mp.
2. ((inter$occupation$ or inter-occupation$) adj5 (education$ or learning$ or practice$ or care or instruction$)).mp.
3. ((inter$profession$ or inter-profession$) adj5 (education$ or learning$ or practice$ or care or instruction$)).mp.
4-12 repeated this pattern to include the prefixes multi-, cross- and trans-
13. (collaborat$ adj5 (education$ or learning$ or practice$ or care or instruction$)).mp.
14. (ipe or iecpcp).mp.
15. or/1-14

Facet 2: MeSH headings derived from sentinel articles to increase precision
16. *Patient Care Team/ or Patient Care Team/og
17. patient care and exp interprofessional relations/
18. patient care and cooperative behavior/
19. *patient-centered care/ or patient-centered care/og
20. or/16-18

Facet 3: Evaluation and methodology
21. questionnaires/ or health care surveys/ or psychometrics/ or program evaluation/
22. (measurement$ or evaluation$ or tool$ or scale$).mp.
23. 21 or 22
24. 15 and 20 and 23
25. limit 24 to (english language and humans and yr=”2000 -Current”)


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