Skip navigation
Link to Back issues listing | Back Issue Listing with content Index | Subject Index

Where there is no evidence - search skills

Systematic review
Results
Comment

Bandolier often finds itself drawn into discussions about how well healthcare professionals are able to find and appraise evidence. A general, if anecdotal, conclusion reached is that:



The implication is that training in finding and appraising evidence improves professional skills, and that should work through into better use of evidence in practice. What's the evidence for that? A new review [1] tells us that there's not much evidence for the finding part.


Systematic review


The review from Chorley searched an astonishing eleven different sources, from the Cochrane Library to the Internet. It looked for randomised and other trials of educational interventions for improving on-line searching abilities using short periods, one to eight hours, of training, compared with another course.


Results


Three trials were found, all published since 1998, and in all the participants were medical students or junior doctors. Two were randomised, and only one had more than 100 participants.


Two trials, including the largest and possibly the best, found that skills improved after the training course, though benefits were not large, nor were they unambiguous.


Comment


There is some evidence that training in search skills works, but we really don't know what amount or type of training produces the best results, and in whom. Given that much effort is being expended in critical appraisal and searching skills programmes, we need more and better research on how best to do it.


Reference:

  1. A Grag, KM Turtle. Effectiveness of training health professionals in literature search skills using electronic databases – a critical appraisal. Health Information and Libraries Journal 2003 20: 33-41.

previous or next story