Using the Turning Research Into Practice (TRIP) database: how do clinicians really search?

J Med Libr Assoc. 2007 Apr;95(2):156-63. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.95.2.156.


Objectives: Clinicians and patients are increasingly accessing information through Internet searches. This study aimed to examine clinicians' current search behavior when using the Turning Research Into Practice (TRIP) database to examine search engine use and the ways it might be improved.

Methods: A Web log analysis was undertaken of the TRIP database-a meta-search engine covering 150 health resources including MEDLINE, The Cochrane Library, and a variety of guidelines. The connectors for terms used in searches were studied, and observations were made of 9 users' search behavior when working with the TRIP database.

Results: Of 620,735 searches, most used a single term, and 12% (n = 75,947) used a Boolean operator: 11% (n = 69,006) used "AND" and 0.8% (n = 4,941) used "OR." Of the elements of a well-structured clinical question (population, intervention, comparator, and outcome), the population was most commonly used, while fewer searches included the intervention. Comparator and outcome were rarely used. Participants in the observational study were interested in learning how to formulate better searches.

Conclusions: Web log analysis showed most searches used a single term and no Boolean operators. Observational study revealed users were interested in conducting efficient searches but did not always know how. Therefore, either better training or better search interfaces are required to assist users and enable more effective searching.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abstracting and Indexing
  • Databases as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Internet*
  • Physicians