Medical librarians’ knowledge and practices in locating clinical trials for systematic reviews




systematic reviews, clinical trials, study design methodology, survey


Objective: In regard to locating clinical trials for a systematic review, limited information is available about how librarians locate clinical trials in biomedical databases, including (1) how much information researchers provide librarians to assist with the development of a comprehensive search strategy, (2) which tools librarians turn to for information about study design methodology, and (3) librarians’ confidence levels in their knowledge of study design methodology. A survey was developed to explore these aspects of how a medical librarian locates clinical trials when facilitating systematic reviews for researchers.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, a 21-question survey was sent to medical librarians via several email listservs during April 2020. Respondents were limited to librarians who make the decisions on search terms for systematic reviews.

Results: Responses (n=120) indicated that librarians were often asked to search for various types of clinical trials. However, there was not a consistent method for creating search strategies that locate diverse types of clinical trials. Multiple methods were used for search strategy development, with hedges being the most popular method. In general, these librarians considered themselves to be confident in locating trials. Different resources were used to inform study types, including textbooks, articles, library guides and websites.

Discussion: Medical librarians indicated that while they felt confident in their searching skills, they did not have a definitive source of information about the various types of clinical trials, and their responses demonstrated a clear need and desire for more information on study design methodology. 


Author Biography

Jennifer C. Westrick, Rush University Medical Center

Library of Rush University Medical Center

Library Research Information Specialist


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Original Investigation