PEDro searching has improved over time

When searching a database like PEDro, the results can only be as precise as the search terms used. The more sophisticated and specific the search is, the more relevant the resulting articles will be. For busy clinicians, using time to effectively identify relevant articles is vital. In order to improve the user experience, PEDro provides video tutorials on how to structure a search. Pop-up messages are also provided for common search errors (eg, using Boolean operators).

A recent paper analysed the content of PEDro searches to evaluate whether search quality has improved since the error messages and tutorials were implemented. Utilising data sourced from Google Analytics, the investigators compared search terms entered by users over a 6-month period in 2014-2015 to the same time period in 2017-2018. The study found a very small increase in the use of sophisticated search features (eg, truncation) and small reductions in search errors (eg, using non-ASCII characters). Overall in 2017-2018, only 6% of simple and 9% of advanced search commands used sophisticated features, while 16% of simple and 12% of advanced search commands contained errors. The content of PEDro search commands was largely similar to searches from 2014-2015. These small improvements may be due to availability of video tutorials on how to optimise searching and warnings that appear when users enter search commands containing errors. However, additional strategies to improve the quality of searches are needed.

We encourage PEDro users to think about the question they are asking before starting a search and to take advantage of the Advanced search page. Tips on formulating a clinical question are available in the PEDro “how to ask a clinical question in PICO format” tutorial. The Advanced search page includes 13 fields for entering your search terms that could help make your search more specific. For help with using the Advanced search page you can watch the “how to perform a PEDro advanced search” and “how to optimise PEDro searching” videos. These tutorials and videos are available in multiple languages on the PEDro web-site.

Zadro JR, et al. PEDro searching has improved over time: a comparison of search commands from two six-month periods three years apart. Int J Med Inform 2019;121:1-9

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