The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition

Appendix 2: Literature search strategy for the 10th edition of the Handbook

Page last updated: 01 August 2017

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For each Handbook chapter, broad literature searches were conducted for the years since the last Handbook searches were performed, using up to 24 databases, listed in Table A2.1. The purpose of these searches was to ensure that NCIRS technical writers and ATAGI members had access to all relevant information from the latest medical literature to allow identification of important issues related to the updating of all Handbook chapters. In addition, since writing of the 9th edition of the Handbook, Selected Dissemination Information (SDI) searches were established to enable the ongoing collection of new relevant items on the search topics. This process used the same search strategies as previously described, which allowed consideration and inclusion of papers published since publication of the 9th edition Handbook.

Table A2.1: Electronic databases searched for the 10th edition
Electronic database Time period
MEDLINE 2006–2011
Cochrane Library – including Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Methods Studies, the Health Technology Assessment Database, the NHS Economic Evaluation Database 2006–2011
Cumulated Index Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (when required) 2006–2011
Clinical Evidence 2006–2011
EMBASE 2006–2011
Australian focused Informit databases (AMI, APA-FT, APAIS, APAIS - Health, ATSIhealth, Ausport Med, CINCH - Health, DRUG, Health and Society, HIVA, Health Collection, Indigenous Collection, RURAL, SAGE) 2006–2011

Searches were conducted using the electronic databases detailed in Table A2.1, with the search period from 2006 to October 2011, in order to retrieve items published since the searches completed for the 9th edition of the Handbook. The scope of the searches was broad, to ensure maximum retrieval and minimise the exclusion of items of interest. Previous Handbook searches were examined to determine the scope required for the new searches, and similar search strategies were employed to ensure consistency of information retrieval, taking into account new terms added to the databases.

Various search methods were tested, including ‘explode’ and ‘focus’ options. ‘Exploded’ terms retrieve citations containing the term being searched and all the narrower related terms in the database. ‘Focus’ searches retrieve citations that have the search term as the major focus of the item. In the trial searches, some items of interest were missed using the ‘focus’ method, thus ‘exploded’ searches were utilised. All subheadings assigned to the subject headings were generally included. In general, the search strategy consisted of the disease topic and relevant vaccine terms, used in combination with the terms immunisation/immunisation programs. Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT were used as appropriate. To ensure relevant and accurate retrieval, thesaurus terms (the controlled vocabulary terms used in the database) were used whenever possible. Keyword searching was used in the absence of an appropriate thesaurus term or if the database did not have thesaurus terms. To facilitate relevant retrieval and to limit what, in some instances, are very large search result sets, the following limits were applied to the disease topic searches:

  • Publication year – searches were generally limited to items published from 2006–2011.
  • Language – searches were limited to items in English.
  • Human – items discussing only animals were removed.
  • In vitro – items discussing only in vitro studies were removed.
  • Abstracts – search results restricted to items containing abstracts.

The search limits were slightly modified for some of the searches. For example, the Australian-specific searches did not have search results limited to abstract only, to ensure that all Australian items were retrieved.

The ATAGI and NCIRS technical writers also identified, where possible, focused clinical questions for each of the Handbook chapters, in advance of conducting literature searches. Specific searches were conducted for these questions, both using the databases and time periods above, but also using additional databases, longer time periods and other strategies, such as clinical trial registries and handsearching, as necessary.