The role of UK bibliographic databases in systematic reviews

Bibliographic databases are a day-to-day tool of the researcher: they offer the researcher easy and organised access to knowledge, but how much is actually known about the databases on offer and the role they can play in secondary research and analysis?

Led by Chris Cooper, the IS team (Morwenna Rogers, Alison Bethel, Simon Briscoe and Jenny Lowe) have investigated the role UK bibliographic databases play in secondary research.  This study has been conducted in two parts: First, a mapping review has been undertaken to locate studies which analyse the content, utility and functionality of core UK health and social care databases. Secondly, this mapping review has been supplemented by 14 face-to-face interviews with senior information professionals to explore how these bibliographic databases contribute to systematic reviews from a user’s perspective.

The findings of this study suggest that UK-focused health and social care bibliographic databases have a distinct role to play in systematic reviews. As reviews become increasingly complex, with varying and specific information needs, an evidence base on how bibliographic databases work and what they can uniquely offer researchers is timely. From locating specific UK studies, which would not have been picked up by the international databases of MEDLINE and EMBASE, to finding specific, hard-to-locate pieces of grey literature for theory-led or qualitative reviews, the team’s research demonstrates the role which these databases will come to play in systematic reviews.

The team are presently involved in writing up further studies relating to this topic. In particular, a series of head-to-head studies comparing UK-focused databases against those which are international in their remit. This work has been funded by the Health Libraries Group and the University Health and Medical Librarians Group, through the ‘Research In the Workplace Award’.

Cooper, C., O'Mara-Eves, A., Rogers, M., Bethel, A., Lowe, J., Crathorne, L., Gomersall, A. The best of the UK? A report on the value and future of UK databases in the health and social care fields: a systematic map protocol. BMJ Open. 2012; 2(3). Abstract

Cooper, C., Rogers, M., Briscoe, S., Bethel, A., Lowe, J. A Mapping Review of the Literature on UK-focused Health and Social Care Databases Health Libraries Journal [forthcoming]

Briscoe, S., Cooper, C., The British Nursing Index and CINAHL: A comparison of journal title coverage and the implications for information professionals Health Libraries Journal [forthcoming]

Bethel, A., Rogers, M. A checklist to assess database-hosting platforms for designing and running searches for systematic reviews. Health Information and Libraries Journal. 2014; 31(1): 43-53. Abstract

People involved: Chris Cooper, Morwenna Rogers, Alison Bethel, Simon Briscoe, Jenny Lowe