Web searching for systematic reviews: how to develop the current guidance on methods and reporting standards


O 2.3


Oral session 2: Information retrieval


Sunday 4 October 2015 - 11:00 to 12:30


All authors in correct order:

Briscoe S1
1 University of Exeter, United Kingdom
Presenting author and contact person

Presenting author:

Simon Briscoe

Contact person:

Abstract text
Background: The development of the world wide web has given researchers easy access to information. Although this is a positive development, the web has also contributed to the problem of 'information overload'. This problem may be alleviated through guidance on the most effective methods and reporting standards for web searching. To this end, the author of this abstract has been asked to develop the Cochrane Handbook section on web searching (section for the next major revision.
Objectives: This oral session will review the current guidance on web searching for systematic reviews and consider how to develop this guidance. In particular, the session will consider methods for web searching using search engines and websites, and the reporting standards required to ensure transparency and reproducibility of searches.
Methods: Current guidance on web searching for systematic reviews will be reviewed, including guidance from Cochrane and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK). In order to develop this guidance, and searchers’ understanding of web searching, the session will contrast some of the differences between web searching and searching bibliographic databases. This will include the lack of structured indexing on the web by comparison to bibliographic records, and the difference between web-based probabilistic search algorithms and the Boolean searches used by bibliographic databases.
Results: It will be demonstrated how the search features of search engines and websites impact on optimal search methods and reporting standards. Recommendations for developing guidelines in line with these findings will be presented.
Conclusions: The guidance on web searching to resource systematic reviews currently lacks detail and should be updated. Better guidance on web searching would help searchers and researchers resource systematic reviews and would contribute to 'filtering the information overload'.