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Open Access Research article

Citation searching: a systematic review case study of multiple risk behaviour interventions

Kath Wright*, Su Golder and Rocio Rodriguez-Lopez

Author Affiliations

Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, A/B Block, Alcuin College, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2014, 14:73  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-14-73

Published: 3 June 2014

Abstract

Background

The value of citation searches as part of the systematic review process is currently unknown. While the major guides to conducting systematic reviews state that citation searching should be carried out in addition to searching bibliographic databases there are still few studies in the literature that support this view. Rather than using a predefined search strategy to retrieve studies, citation searching uses known relevant papers to identify further papers.

Methods

We describe a case study about the effectiveness of using the citation sources Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science and OVIDSP MEDLINE to identify records for inclusion in a systematic review.

We used the 40 included studies identified by traditional database searches from one systematic review of interventions for multiple risk behaviours. We searched for each of the included studies in the four citation sources to retrieve the details of all papers that have cited these studies.

We carried out two analyses; the first was to examine the overlap between the four citation sources to identify which citation tool was the most useful; the second was to investigate whether the citation searches identified any relevant records in addition to those retrieved by the original database searches.

Results

The highest number of citations was retrieved from Google Scholar (1680), followed by Scopus (1173), then Web of Science (1095) and lastly OVIDSP (213). To retrieve all the records identified by the citation tracking searching all four resources was required. Google Scholar identified the highest number of unique citations.

The citation tracking identified 9 studies that met the review’s inclusion criteria. Eight of these had already been identified by the traditional databases searches and identified in the screening process while the ninth was not available in any of the databases when the original searches were carried out. It would, however, have been identified by two of the database search strategies if searches had been carried out later.

Conclusions

Based on the results from this investigation, citation searching as a supplementary search method for systematic reviews may not be the best use of valuable time and resources. It would be useful to verify these findings in other reviews.

Keywords:
Systematic reviews; Information retrieval; Citation searching