Issue 3 of the TSC Support Team digest looks at handsearching and also introduces a new feature on questions we've had through the TSC Support email address. Please continue to let us know of any topics you'd like us to cover in future: email@example.com
Handsearching involves the task of searching through medical journals (these days both hard copy and electronic copy) or conference abstract books for reports of controlled trials which are not indexed in the major electronic databases like MEDLINE and EMBASE. The Cochrane Handbook states that authors are not routinely required to do handsearching for their reviews, however many choose to do so, and will often ask for help from TSCs. The resources below are a good starting point.
Despite the date on the cover, the Cochrane Handsearching Guide developed by the US Cochrane Center is still relevant and contains current advice on handsearching within Cochrane. As well as explaining the rationale behind identifying trials via handsearching for inclusion in CENTRAL, it also goes through how to differentiate between randomized controlled trials and controlled clinical trials, and includes a glossary of commonly encountered terms.
Online handsearching course
The US Cochrane Center has created an online handsearching course, which is still current and available via the Center's website. The course is free of charge, although new users will have to register with TRAMS (the Training Management System). Completion of the course takes about 7 hours in total, but participants can return at any point. It also contains quizzes, assessments and a handsearching test.
Cochrane Journals List
Don't forget that the list of journals that have already been handsearched by Cochrane is now available via the Cochrane Register of Studies Online (CRSO). Under the Handsearched Journals tab you can see the journals searched, dates of search and which Cochrane Group or Centre is undertaking the search. The list can be filtered by drop down menus to display the list by Journal or Group. TSCs can add new journals to the list if handsearching is being undertaken in their Group.
Questions from the TSC Support Inbox...
An occasional feature where we look at a question received by the Team...
When I don't add field limits in advanced search in the Cochrane Library, which fields are actually being searched?
An experienced TSC noticed that when she searched CENTRAL via the Cochrane Library, she got different results when searching on title, abstract and keyword fields than when she searched not using any field limits at all. She checked the search guidance, but still wasn’t clear what the default was. The answer:
When in advanced search (otherwise known as Search Manager), if you don't add any field limits to your search, the default is ‘all fields’, including journal name, URL, author name, etc etc. However, if you are using the basic search, only title, abstract and keywords will be searched if you don't add any field limits. Follow-up:
The team have requested that Wiley make this distinction clearer in the Cochrane Library search tips and help documentation.
Contact the TSC Support Team for help with any TSC related issue (including CRS technical support): firstname.lastname@example.org
The TSC Support Team:
Liz Doney I Sam Faulkner I Ruth Foxlee
Anne Littlewood I Doug Salzwedel