Research Methodology Search Filters: Are They Effective for Locating Research for Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine in PubMed?

Article excerpt

Objective: The study examined the effectiveness of research methodology search filters developed by Haynes and colleagues and utilized by the Clinical Query feature of PubMed for locating literature for evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM).

Methods: A manual review of articles published in 6 commonly read veterinary journals was conducted. Articles were classified by format (original study, review, general article, conference report, decision analysis, and case report) and purpose category (etiology, prognosis, diagnosis, and treatment). Search strategies listed in PubMed's Clinical Query feature were then tested and compared to the manually reviewed data to calculate sensitivity, specificity, and precision.

Results: The author manually reviewed 914 articles to identify 702 original studies. Search #1 included terms determined to have the highest sensitivity and returned acceptable sensitivities over 75% for diagnosis and treatment. Search #2 included terms identified as providing the highest specificity and returned results with specificities over 75% for etiology, prognosis, and treatment.

Discussion: The low precision for each search prompts the question: Are research methodology search filters practical for locating literature for the practice of EBVM? A study examining terms related to appropriate research methodologies for advanced clinical veterinary research is necessary to develop filters designed to locate literature for EBVM.

In the past decade, evidence-based medicine (EBM) has been promoted as a valid mechanism for locating answers to tough questions while fulfilling physicians' continuing education or lifelong learning needs [1]. Focused on the double-blinded, randomized clinical trial and systematic reviews as the best clinical research to answer everyday clinical questions, EBM has recently been advocated for the veterinary medical profession and adapted to veterinary school curricula [2-6]. Research, however, illustrates that physicians have difficulty applying the theory of evidence-based medicine to their actual medical practice [7]. Lack of time, difficulty formulating or translating questions for EBM, difficulty developing an optimal search strategy, and an inability to access the literature at time of need are frequently noted obstacles and discourage physicians from practicing EBM [8, 9]. The small number of doubled-blinded, randomized clinical trials or systematic reviews published in the veterinary medical literature creates additional obstacles for clinicians searching for evidence-based veterinary literature. Veterinary researchers often choose smaller, alternative research methodologies for financial, ethical, and other reasons [10]. Thus, the research base for evidence-based veterinary medicine is not very large. While veterinary medical publishers work to encourage researchers to improve the research base for evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM), it is important to examine whether veterinary clinicians will be able to locate such research once it is published.

A recent study of the CAB Abstracts database found the research methodology search filters developed by Haynes and colleagues impractical for locating literature for evidence-based veterinary medicine in two major veterinary journals [11]. While CAB Abstracts indexes the largest subset of veterinary medical literature in the world, most veterinarians, unfortunately, do not have access to CAB Abstracts after graduation from veterinary school. PubMed offers a useful alternative. The database indexes approximately seventy major veterinary titles, including the Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association and Veterinary Record. The Haynes study used MEDLINE to develop search terms and phrases that would best identify studies by research design for evidence-based medicine [12]. Since relatively few research methodologies are appropriate for advanced investigation of clinical medicine, the Haynes study tested 134,264 potential combinations of search terms derived from these methodologies in MEDLINE. …