Development of an efficient search filter to retrieve systematic reviews from PubMed




search filter, systematic reviews, PubMed, information retrieval, search strategies


Objective: Locating systematic reviews is essential for clinicians and researchers when creating or updating reviews and for decision-making in health care. This study aimed to develop a search filter for retrieving systematic reviews that improves upon the performance of the PubMed systematic review search filter.

Methods: Search terms were identified from abstracts of reviews published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and the titles of articles indexed as systematic reviews in PubMed. Both the precision of the candidate terms and the number of systematic reviews retrieved from PubMed were evaluated after excluding the subset of articles retrieved by the PubMed systematic review filter. Terms that achieved a precision greater than 70% and relevant publication types indexed with MeSH terms were included in the filter search strategy.

Results: The search strategy used in our filter added specific terms not included in PubMed’s systematic review filter and achieved a 61.3% increase in the number of retrieved articles that are potential systematic reviews. Moreover, it achieved an average precision that is likely greater than 80%.

Conclusions: The developed search filter will enable users to identify more systematic reviews from PubMed than the PubMed systematic review filter with high precision.

Author Biographies

José Antonio Salvador-Oliván, Professor, Department of Library and Information Science, University of Zaragoza, Spain.

Profesor de doctorado  , Departamento de Bibliotecología y Ciencias de la Información

Gonzalo Marco-Cuenca, Professor, Department of Library and Information Science, University of Zaragoza, Spain.

Profesor de doctorado  , Departamento de Bibliotecología y Ciencias de la Información

Rosario Arquero-Avilés, Department of Library and Information Science, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Profesor de doctorado  , Departamento de Bibliotecología y Ciencias de la Información


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Original Investigation