It's in your hands: the value of handsearching in conducting systematic reviews of public health interventions.

TitleIt's in your hands: the value of handsearching in conducting systematic reviews of public health interventions.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsArmstrong R, Jackson N, Doyle J, Waters E, Howes F
JournalJournal of public health (Oxford, England)
Date Published2005 Dec
KeywordsHealth Promotion; Humans; Information Storage and Retrieval; Public Health; Review Literature as Topic

BACKGROUND: While there is an emerging evidence base in public health, the evidence can often be difficult to find. Indexing of journals in MEDLINE has assisted those conducting systematic reviews to more easily identify published studies. However, information technology and the processes associated with indexing are not infallible. Studies may not be correctly marked by study design which may mean they are missed in the electronic searching process. Handsearching for evidence of intervention effectiveness has therefore become a recognized tool in the systematic review process.

METHODS: Resources to guide handsearching activity currently are clinically focused, and may not be sensitive to the characteristics of public health studies where study terminology may differ. In response to this issue, the Cochrane Health Promotion and Public Health Field (the Field) developed and implemented a small study to recruit and support handsearchers from around the world to identify health promotion and public health trials and systematic reviews. A strategic framework was developed to recruit and support handsearchers to search six public health-related journals.

RESULTS: In total, 131 trials and 21 systematic reviews were identified. The greatest value of handsearching was found to be in supplement editions and abstract sections of journals

CONCLUSIONS: The study focused exclusively on indexed journals with the intention that tools and methods developed could be used to explore the potential for handsearching in non-indexed journals and for unpublished studies. The findings from this study will continue to support handsearching efforts and in doing so contribute to high quality systematic reviews of public health interventions.

Alternate JournalJ Public Health (Oxf)