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

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.






One response to “Reference manager, electronic databases, and other thoughts from a systematic review”

  1. joe Avatar

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