Reference manager, electronic databases, and other thoughts from a systematic review

by Hans on 2005/04/28

Here are some thoughts as I work on my systematic review.

Electronic Databases

I’ve been searching Medline and EMBASE and I have as good a search strategy that I’ll get. Since I’m mostly looking for theory-type papers, I think I’m going to get a considerable amount of “noise” – okay, I can deal with that. What I find frustrating is the process of getting the citations out of the databases and into a reference manager (I’m currently using Thomson ResearchSoft’s Reference Manager 10). In my current search, I have close to 5000 hits to sift through (my colleague has a list of over 9000!). What I find frustrating is that I can only save/export 200 citations at a time. What is up with that? For your information, I’m using the Ovid versions of the databases. So, I have to download 200 citations at a time and then load them into Reference Manager. What a tedious process. Oh yeah, and when downloading, there must be at least a hundred different formats – what’s up with that?

On another note, I wonder if GoogleScholar will ever provide the functionality of being able to download the search results into a file or reference manager? Hmm…now wouldn’t that be interesting?

Reference Formatting

Since I’m in a pseudo-rant mode, what is up with the hundreds/thousands of different reference formatting styles? Okay, I can understand that there are some significant differences between body notes (e.g., APA formatting), footnotes, and end-notes (e.g., Biomedical journals), but is there really a need to have more than that? Considering that the differences amount to cosmetic differences? I’m a bit bitter because I spent a weekend fighting with Reference Manager to get my references into a journal’s format when submitting a manuscript – it wasn’t fun. In all fairness, I understand that the biomedical journals are trying to come to some consensus with the Vancouver/Universal Biomedical Journal style. I suppose change has to occur somewhere.

Personally, I like the APA reference format because when I read a body note, I’m more aware of the source than when seeing superscript numbers. The body notes seem to provide more information – I also like the reference list because it’s in an alphabetical format. But, body notes are a real pain when there are several references, or a list of items referenced extensively. The read-ability of the text becomes almost impossible because it’s interrupted with body notes. In this circumstance, I’d have to say that end-notes are probably superior because it’s less obtrusive. But, by using numbers, you lose something. I know that for me, I’m less likely to look-up the reference when end-notes are used because it’s more work to stop reading and find the reference – maybe that’s a bad habit of mine.

Well, back to work on my systematic review. I’ve got to load up some more citations into Reference Manager.

{ 1 comment }

joe April 28, 2005 at 6:32 pm

how come you didnt post to ehealthinnovation.org? not ehealth enough of an entry?

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