Handsearching Had Best Recall but Poor Efficiency When Exporting to a Bibliographic Tool: Case Study

J Clin Epidemiol. 2020 Jul;123:39-48. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2020.03.013. Epub 2020 Mar 27.

Abstract

Objectives: The objective of this study was to compare the effectiveness and efficiency of methods used to identify and export conference abstracts into a bibliographic management tool.

Study design and setting: This is a case study. The effectiveness and efficiency of methods to identify and export conference abstracts presented at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference 2016-2018 for a systematic review were evaluated. A reference standard handsearch of conference proceedings was compared with: 1) contacting Blood (the journal that report ASH proceedings); 2) keyword searching; 3) searching Embase; 4) searching MEDLINE via EndNote; and 5) searching CPCI-S. Effectiveness was determined by the number of abstracts identified compared with the reference standard, whereas efficiency was a comparison between the resources required to identify and export conference abstracts compared with the reference standard.

Results: Six hundred and four potentially eligible and 15 confirmed eligible conference abstracts (abstracts included in the review) were identified by the handsearch. Comparator 2 was the only method to identify all abstracts and it was more efficient than the reference standard. Comparators 1 and 3-5 missed a number of eligible abstracts.

Conclusion: This study raises potentially concerning questions about searching for conferences' abstracts by methods other than directly searching the original conference proceedings. Efficiency of exporting would be improved if journals permitted bulk downloads.

Keywords: Conference searching; Embase; Endnote; Handsearching; Information retrieval; Systematic reviews.