Learn how to search EMBASE better

Brian Haynes, Monika Kastner, Nancy Wilczynski, and the Hedges Team at McMaster University published this interesting and useful article on how to better search EMBASE. FYI – “EMBASE is a comprehensive and international bibliographic database renowned for its extensive coverage of the drug and biomedical literature” (EMBASE.com). EMBASE is similar to the National Library of Medicine’s Medline (publicly available at PubMed). EMBASE doesn’t have a tightly controlled medical vocabulary (i.e,. MeSH terms) to categorize articles like Medline. Also, I’m told that EMBASE seems to cover the European literature better than Medline.

Some quick highlights from the article:

  • Searching for original articles (i.e., for a systematic review): Use a more sensitive search strategy;
  • Searching for quick answers: Use a more specific search stragety to get fewer results with a decent yield of relevant articles.

The authors conducted a pretty rigorous study with examples illustrating the types of articles you would find and the sensitivity, specificity, precision, and accuracy statistics for different search strategies. Apparently, there are similar recommendations for searching Medline.

The article is available on BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making. Here’s the citation information:

Haynes, R.B., Kastner, M., Wilczynski, N.L., & The Hedgest Team. (2005). Developing optimal search strategies for detecting clinically sound and relevant causation studies in EMBASE. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 5: 8.

A provisional version of the article is available, but the full article should be available soon at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6947/5/8/.