Search filters: mapping the literature using a novel form of content analysis.

Joanne Wilson, Margaret Anderson

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Background: Search filters are combinations of words and phrases designed to retrieve an optimal set of records on a particular topic (subject filters) or study design (methodological filters). Information specialists are increasingly turning to reusable filters to focus their searches. However, the extent of the academic literature on search filters is unknown. We provide a broad overview to the academic literature on search filters.
    Objectives: To map the academic literature on search filters from 2004 to 2015 using a novel form of content analysis.
    Methods: We conducted a comprehensive search for literature between 2004 and 2015 across eight databases using a subjectively derived search strategy. We identified key words from titles, grouped them into categories, and examined their frequency and co-occurrences.
    Results: The majority of records were housed in Embase (n = 178) and MEDLINE (n = 154). Over the last decade, both databases appeared to exhibit a bimodal distribution with the number of publications on search filters rising until 2006, before dipping in 2007, and steadily increasing until 2012. Few articles appeared in social science databases over the same time frame (e.g. Social Services Abstracts, n = 3).
    Unsurprisingly, the term ‘search’ appeared in most titles, and quite often, was used as a noun adjunct for the word 'filter' and ‘strategy’. Across the papers, the purpose of searches as a means of 'identifying' information and gathering ‘evidence’ from 'databases' emerged quite strongly. Other terms relating to the methodological assessment of search filters, such as precision and validation, also appeared albeit less frequently.
    Conclusions: Our findings show surprising commonality across the papers with regard to the literature on search filters. Much of the literature seems to be focused on developing search filters to identify and retrieve information, as opposed to testing or validating such filters. Furthermore, the literature is mostly housed in health-related databases, namely MEDLINE, CINAHL, and Embase, implying that it is medically driven. Relatively few papers focus on the use of search filters in the social sciences.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    Event23rd Annual Cochrane Colloquium - Meese Wien Exhibition and Congress Centre, Vienna, Austria
    Duration: 03 Oct 201507 Oct 2015


    Conference23rd Annual Cochrane Colloquium


    Dive into the research topics of 'Search filters: mapping the literature using a novel form of content analysis.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this