Standards for Database Searching

If you are in a hurry, it’s very easy to do a superficial search of the literature using one or two terms selected arbitrarily. No strategy supports the retrieval, only one Web site or database is consulted, the vocabulary is not vetted, and no record exists of what search terms determined the retrieval. While this practice may quickly retrieve a few relevant citations, many people are unaware that there is a science to more sophisticated searching.

Growth of Database Searching Standards

Reporting and methodology standards exist requiring expert literature searching for systematic reviews and clinical practice guideline development. Full PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines explicitly describe the requirements for a comprehensive search strategy including documenting who designed and conducted the search. This is typically detailed in the ensuing article’s methodology.1 A variety of organizations have promulgated the standards guiding systematic review and clinical guideline development. Existing standards for systematic reviews and guidelines have specific methodology requirements for the searches supporting their conclusions.

Database searching is so fundamental to finding the relevant literature in health care that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has created standards for its retrieval. This is stipulated within the formal methodology for a study. The IOM Standards for Systematic Reviews state specifically:

  • Standard 3.1.1: “Work with a librarian or other information specialist trained in performing systematic reviews to plan the search strategy.”
  • Standard 3.4.1 requires documenting the search by “providing a line-by-line description of the search strategy…”2

As an extension, IOM standards also provide a framework for developing clinical practice guidelines which procedurally are apprised by systematic reviews.3 Clinical guidelines are important for patient care, and librarians are increasingly involved in their development.4, 5

The Cochrane Collaboration sets a benchmark for high quality evidence, and they have issued a handbook to guide systematic review efforts that specifically recommends that authors seek guidance from a health care librarian (section 6.3.1).6

To support their evidence development, the Joanna Briggs Institute has issued a new manual which recommends consulting a librarian for various kinds of assistance.7 Librarian involvement spans bibliographic search strategies, cost-benefit studies, opinion and text-based evidence retrieval, grey literature searching, and managing references.

The national Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) issues a Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews.8 In describing the topic development team, they specify, “A master’s level research librarian conducts the systematic review searches and feasibility scans.”

Why are Search Standards Important?

Omitting evidence for patient care has been documented in the literature and persists to this day, sometimes leading to congenital malformation,9, 10 fatalities,11, 12 and controversial medical practice.13, 14, 15, 16 Journal readers are increasingly aware of such omissions17 which highlights the role of editors in requiring a comprehensive literature search to inform published studies.

Involvement of Librarians

Librarians are key to this operational procedure as evidenced by HSLS librarians’ participation in guideline development and systematic reviews. For more information, please see the HSLS Systematic Review Program LibGuide.

Building the evidence base using sound methodology is important for decision-making and advancement of patient care. Hospitals develop policies and care guidelines which may be unit-based or institution-wide. Evidence is also embedded in the electronic medical record to guide care. It is imperative that the best evidence is used to direct care, synthesize research, and guide performance improvement measures. Having a librarian as part of the team to plan and execute a comprehensive evidence search strategy is crucial.

References are available upon request by sending an e-mail to Michele Klein-Fedyshin.

~Michele Klein-Fedyshin

Director’s Reflections…More Comfort in Falk Library

Barbara Epstein HSLS Director
Barbara Epstein
HSLS Director

In February 2014, we conducted a one-week survey in Falk Library to ask library visitors their thoughts about our space, and suggestions for improvements. We heard many complaints about worn-out and uncomfortable study chairs, and we were able to take action! All of the older chairs in the library—more than 250 of them—are being re-upholstered with new padding and attractive fabrics. We’re sending them out in batches of 25, and the project should be completed by the end of March. Please be understanding if table seating looks a little sparse in some areas while chairs are out of the library.

While we can’t add outside windows, skylights, or natural daylight to our underground space, we are grateful to the medical student association for purchasing portable light boxes, available to circulate to library users. Continue reading

Changes to the HSLS Online Collection for 2015

Each year brings some change to the HSLS online collection—some new titles are added, while others are removed. Resource usage, purchase recommendations, and publishing changes are some of the factors that contribute to an evolving HSLS online collection.

Journals added to the HSLS online collection for 2015 include:

  • AADE in Practice1
  • Addiction Biology
  • British Journal of Occupational Therapy
  • Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine1
  • Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences1
  • Congenital Heart Disease
  • Early Intervention in Psychiatry
  • European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics
  • Healthcare Management Forum1
  • HPB: The Official Journal of the International Hepato Pacreato Biliary Association
  • International Journal of Stroke
  • Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics
  • Journal of the Intensive Care Society
  • Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health
  • Medical Mycology1
  • Microcirculation
  • Movement Disorders Clinical Practice
  • NeuroToxicology
  • Nursing Clinics of North America
  • Pathology—Research and Practice
  • Pedagogy in Health Promotion1
  • Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences1
  • Proceedings of the International Symposium of Human Factors and Ergonomics in Healthcare
  • Rehabilitation Nursing
  • Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities
  • Shoulder and Elbow
  • Technology in Cancer Research & Treatment
  • Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases
  • Toxicology in Vitro

1. Availability expected later in 2015.

In addition, HSLS arranged trial access during 2015 to two journal collections:

Future Medicine Ltd—access for Pitt users to journals including:

  • Future Microbiology
  • Future Oncology
  • Immunotherapy
  • Nanomedicine
  • Regenerative Medicine

Karger Publishers—access for Pitt and UPMC users to journals including:

  • Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy
  • Journal of Innate Immunity
  • Neonatology
  • Neuroendocrinology
  • Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics

HSLS also continually adds new open-access journals, so check our E-Journals by Subject list for new titles in your area of interest.

The HSLS subscription to STAT!Ref now includes access to the Handbook on Injectable Drugs (currently in its 18th edition) and ICD-10 resources:

  • ICD-10-CM: Clinical Modification
  • ICD-10-PCS: Procedure Coding System
  • ICD-9/ICD-10 Code Conversion Tools

In addition, check out Cochrane Clinical Answers, a new evidence-based, clinical decision support resource based on trusted Cochrane Reviews.

For the journals listed below, 2015 and future articles won’t be available online due to cancellation, ceasing of publication, or other publication change. Note that in many cases, 2014 and earlier articles will remain available. University of Pittsburgh users may order individual articles for a small fee through the HSLS Document Delivery Service.

  • American Journal of Industrial Medicine
  • Annals of Human Genetics
  • Contact Dermatitis
  • Drug Discovery Today: Disease Mechanisms
  • Drug Discovery Today: Therapeutic Strategies
  • European Diabetes Nursing
  • Experimental Parasitology
  • Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental
  • International Journal of Experimental Pathology
  • Journal of Applied Toxicology
  • Journal of Dentofacial Anomalies and Orthodontics
  • Journal of Family Practice
  • Journal of Plastic Surgery and Hand Surgery
  • Medicinal Research Reviews
  • Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology
  • Radioprotection
  • Regulatory Peptides
  • Scandinavian Cardiovascular Journal
  • Scandinavian Journal of Urology

~ Jeff Husted

Thank You to Donors

HSLS is very fortunate to be the recipient of generous gifts from faculty, alumni, and other friends. With the support of the thoughtful people listed below, our library will continue to provide essential resources to enhance the quality of health care in western Pennsylvania and beyond. Continue reading

How Do You Manage Your Data? Let Us Know!

Do you have a great file-naming system that everyone in the lab uses, or have you “lost” files because lab members moved on and you’re not sure how their files were labeled? Do you have a protocol for sharing your data, or do you still have questions about credit and proper usage? Do you have a data management plan in place, or do you need help coming up with one? We would love to have a conversation with you to discuss all of these issues and more.

Image Credit: DataONE. Retrieved January 20, 2015.

HSLS is conducting a research study to collect information on researchers work flows and data management practices. Participation in the study will require one interview, conducted in the researcher’s lab space and taking an average of 45–60 minutes.

Our intention is that participation in this interview will benefit you and your research laboratory by bringing to light possible modifications that could be made regarding management of data in your research setting.

The data received will be used for research purposes and library educational efforts. Your responses will remain confidential and data will be saved on a password protected server.

To participate, or if you have questions, please contact the study PI: Melissa Ratajeski.

~Carrie Iwema

“MeSH on Demand”: A Helpful PubMed Search Tool

Do you ever have trouble coming up with relevant medical subject headings (MeSH) for your PubMed searches? Well, help is here! NLM has developed a natural language processing tool called “MeSH on Demand” that analyzes a block of text and returns a list of relevant medical subject headings.

Here’s how it works:

1. Type or copy/paste your text into the “MeSH on Demand” search box (up to 10,000 characters). The simple example, “How many hours should residents work?” was typed into the text box below.

2. After adding your text, click on the Find MeSH Terms button on the right side of the screen. Processing time usually takes about 35-45 seconds, but can vary depending on the length of the request. After submitting your inquiry, there is no indication that it is being processed so be patient.MESH1

3. On the Results page, you’ll find:

  • The text you entered in the search box and the number of corresponding characters.
  • A list of suggested MeSH terms. For this example, “work” and “physicians.”
  • PMID links to 10 related PubMed citations listed in order of relevance from 1 to 10. Each of these articles was relevant to the search topic. You can also view the human-generated indexing for each article by clicking on the PMID link, which takes you to the PubMed abstract display of the article; then click on Publication Types, MeSH Terms to view the human-generated MeSH. There is a disclaimer at the bottom of the Results page stating that the suggested MeSH terms are machine-generated and do not reflect any human review. You should expect the results to differ from PubMed’s human-generated indexing.MESH2

“MeSH on Demand” is a good place to jump-start a PubMed search. For further information about “MeSH on Demand” or searching PubMed, contact the HSLS Main Desk at 412-648-8866 or Ask a Librarian.

~Jill Foust

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Willem ten Rhijne on Acupuncture

During the second half of the 17th century the Dutch East India Company (the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie), known as VOC, managed to monopolize trade with Asia. It was a new kind of corporation: an aggressive commercial firm which became a profit-making, semi-independent arm of the Dutch state. Its trading post on the island of Deshima was the only window to Japan, otherwise inaccessible for foreigners after the Tokugawa government adopted a national seclusion policy.

Despite the restrictions of a “closed country” some Japanese were still interested in European knowledge, especially medicine and astronomy. The VOC physicians were an excellent source of knowledge for interpreters who continued to work on translating medical books from Europe. In 1673, per the official shogun’s request to bring a physician with botanical and chemical experience,¹ VOC hired Willem ten Rhijne, a young physician educated in Angers and Leyden. As soon as he arrived in Japan he was subjected to many long interviews exploiting his knowledge of western medicine. Ten Rhijne, in return, used contacts with interpreters to inquire about the Japanese practice of acupuncture and moxibustion (fire acupuncture) and, with their help, to learn more on the subject from Chinese texts available to him on Deshima. The result was his book Dissertatio de Arthritide (London 1683), including among others, a very important treatise on acupuncture. The text portrayed Japanese practitioners with admiration for using this therapy to treat diseases in place of the detested European practice of bloodletting.² One may question the accuracy Rhijne1of the final transfer of knowledge taken from a Chinese text and translated to Japanese, then to Dutch, and finally rendered in Latin as “De Acupunctura,” but there is no question that for Europeans it was the first detailed account of acupuncture practice. The treatise is illustrated with two Japanese and two Chinese schematics of meridian points, as well as images of the moxa (mugwort) and an acupuncture needle.

The library’s copy of Dissertatio de Arthritide is a variation of the original edition with a single place of publication. It includes all six plates and a frontispiece portrait of the author sometimes missing from other copies. It belonged to Caspar Wistar Pennock (1799-1867), a physician from Philadelphia. It was later acquired by Gerald Rodnan, and eventually donated to the library by his heirs. It can be viewed in the Rare Book Room by appointment.


~Gosia Fort

1. Cook, H. J. Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age. (New Haven, CT, 2007).
2. Carrubba R.W. and Bowers, J. Z. “The Western World’s First Detailed Treatise on Acupuncture: Willem Ten Rhijne’ De Acupunctura.” Journal of the History of Medicine, 29(4): 371-98, October 1974.

HSLS Staff News


Michele Klein-Fedyshin, reference librarian, published,Translating Evidence into Practice at the End of Life: Information Needs, Access, and Usage by Hospice and Palliative Nurses,” in Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing, 17(1): 24-30, February 2015.

Ester Saghafi, reference librarian, along with co-authors J.W. Kim1, E.M. Szigethy2, N.M. Melhem3, and D.A. Brent4, published “Inflammatory Markers and the Pathogenesis of Pediatric Depression and Suicide: A Systematic Review of the Literature,” in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 75(11): 1242-53, November 2014.

  1. Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
2-4. Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Missy Harvey, technology and communication coordinator, NN/LM Middle Atlantic Region, presented “Privacy & Security on the Web: How to Protect Yourself,” to the METRO Mobile Computing Special Interest Group, in New York, NY, on October 16, 2014; South Central Regional Library Council, in Ithaca, NY, on December 11, 2014; NN/LM New England Region, Worcester, MA, on December 10; NN/LM New England Region, Highland, NY, on December 8, 2014; and presented “Navigating Health Information for Academic Libraries,” to the Pennsylvania Library Association, College & Research Division, Harrisburg, PA, on December 5, 2014.

Douglass Landsittel1 presented “Selecting Optimal Observational Methods for Comparative Effectiveness Research,” at the 11th International Conference on Health Policy Statistics, in Providence, RI, October 7-9, 2014. Co-authors were Joyce Chang2, Elan Cohen3, Andrew Topp4, Sally Morton5, and Ester Saghafi, reference librarian.

  1. Biostatistics and Clinical and Translational Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  2. Center for Research in Health Care, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  3. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  4. Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  5. Health Policy Institute, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Classes February 2015

HSLS offers classes on database searching, software applications such as Prezi, bibliographic management, molecular biology and genetics, and library orientations. For more information, visit the online course descriptions.

Classes are held on the first floor of Falk Library (200 Scaife Hall) in Classroom 1 and on the upper floor of the library in Classroom 2. All classes are open to faculty, staff, and students of the schools of the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, who will need a valid Pitt ID or e-mail account. They are also open to UPMC residents and fellows, who will need to show their UPMC IDs.

No registration is required, except where noted. Classes marked with an asterisk (*) qualify for American Medical Association Category 2 continuing education credit.

Class schedules are subject to change. Please consult the online class calendar for the most current information.


FlashClass is a “deal of the week” Groupon-like offer of timely and useful learning. Each week’s offer proposes one or two topics, and you’re invited to sign up to attend a one-hour class the following week. If at least three people sign up, we’ll hold the class. (We’ll notify you either way.)


Advanced PowerPoint for Presentations (Falk Library Classroom 2)

Friday, February 20 10:30 a.m.-noon

EndNote Basics (Falk Library Classroom 2)

Thursday, February 5 Noon-2 p.m.

Painless PubMed* (Falk Library Classroom 1)

Thursday, February 5 9-10 a.m.
Monday, February 9 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 17 9-10 a.m.
Wednesday, February 25 Noon-1 p.m.

Prezi for Presentations (Falk Library Classroom 2)

Friday, February 13 10:30 a.m.-noon


Pathway Analysis Tools* (Falk Library Classroom 2)

Wednesday, February 11 1-3 p.m.


Customized classes can be developed for your department, course, or other group.