Complex search: problems and solutions

Finding the right information at the right time is a constant challenge. Sometimes, a few keywords in a search box are good enough. But there are times when a more rigorous, precise approach is needed.

For example, researchers, information professionals, patent searchers and recruiters all require effective search to perform their duties, often relying on advanced search tools such as form-based query builders. However, these tools require the use of complex Boolean syntax and offer limited support for error checking or optimization. Moreover, this approach precipitates a number of other issues:

  • Systematic literature review is the cornerstone of evidence-based medicine, but published search strategies often contain errors

  • Search strategies can be improved thorough peer-review, but the platforms used for this practice are not always open to public scrutiny

  • Managing search strategies using document-centric tools such as MS Word or PDF introduces errors through unwanted conversion of control characters (e.g. quotation marks and truncation symbols), removal of spaces, addition of line breaks etc.

  • Copy and pasting searches from documents/spreadsheets into search boxes introduces further errors

  • Publishing search strategies as supplementary materials scales poorly and data can become lost over time

The following webinar discusses these challenges and explores some of the solutions. It is presented by Farhad Shokraneh, who is an information specialist (research fellow) in the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group at the University of Nottingham. He is co-author of search chapter in Cochrane Handbook and an invited editor for Systematic Reviews and World Journal of Meta-Analysis. The webinar was kindly hosted by the Knowledge Synthesis Interest Group of the Canadian Health Libraries Association.

Tony Russell-RoseComment