Statistics, policy documents, news items
Grey literature (notably policy documents, statistics and news) should be searched as well as familiar bibliographic databases when compiling rapid evidence summaries. A list of suitable sources accessible and relevant to NHS Scotland staff is listed in the Knowledge Sharing Handbook article Useful sources for rapid evidence summaries. SCHARR recommend reading the article Olsan, T et al, 2011. Finding electronic information for health policy advocacy: a guide to improving search results. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. 24(2) 120. They also recommend undertaking the online course US National Library of Medicine Finding and Using Health Statistics to support searching in these areas if you are unfamiliar with grey literature searching.
News sites can ensure that the most up to date evidence is included – you should reference the original research as well as the news story. The NHS news page, Behind the Headlines, explains the facts behind news stories.
What is searched and how in depth a search is conducted should depend on both the topic and the time available. As a rough guide:
1 hour’s work available? focus on up to date clinical guidance. Expand the search if time allows to government sources, professional organisations specific to the requester’s interest (e.g. the RCGP website for primary care), and NHS Inform if patient information is required. Focus on the UK unless specified otherwise.
1 day’s work available? aim for a complete picture of the current situation, looking at material over the last 12 months. Use appropriate statistical and governmental sources and add any suitable graphs from here to your summary. Look at clinical guidance as above but do not limit to the UK unless the requester desires. Do a quick search in Medline or the most appropriate database (make it as up to date as possible, including In Process records, which are covered by the current Ovid Medline version).
1 week’s work available? aim to be comprehensive - carry out a Level 1-type search. Ensure that a range of news, guidance, statistical and policy sources are searched. Include conference abstracts and reports if available. Consider citation searching on any key papers or authors found. If time allows arrange references by publication type, subtopics or as appropriate, and aim for an attractive presentation (resources to assist with this are given on the Useful sources article).
Mapping the evidence
A map of the evidence can be constructed when compiling an evidence summary. Evidence maps can be used as a type of scoping search, identifying key authors, search terms and journals to assist in further searching, but are also a valid method of presenting available evidence on a topic in themselves (an example is published at Evidence Map of Mindfulness), alone or accompanying a conventional systematic review . Further reading on this from:
Booth, A., Sutton, A. And Papaioannou, D. 2016 Systematic approaches to a successful literature review 2nd ed. is recommended (multiple copies are available within NHS Scotland libraries).
There are several tools which can assist with this process:
Web of Science is a citation index database which can be accessed from the Knowledge Network. References retrieved by a topic search can be arranged by the number of times cited. The Analyze Results link allows the visualisation of results by author, journal titles and other aspects, allowing the rapid identification of top sources and authors for a topic.
PubMed PubReMiner ranks PubMed results for a search by publication date, author, journal title and more, and also by frequency of MeSH terms and keywords.
Adapted from training entitled Instant evidence based medicine: how to quickly synthesise research, delivered by School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield on 6th September 2018, Glasgow.