Zadro J1,2, Moseley A1,2, Elkins M3, Maher C1,2
1The University of Sydney, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney, Australia, 2Sydney Local Health District, Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, Sydney, Australia, 3Sydney Local Health District, Centre for Education and Workforce Development, Sydney, Australia

Background: In 2014-2015, the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) was searched poorly by users; few search commands used sophisticated features and ~20% contained errors. To improve the quality of PEDro searches, users now receive error messages when using incorrect search commands and have access to video tutorials.

Purpose: To determine whether search quality has improved since error messages and tutorials were implemented and to evaluate the content of PEDro searches.

Methods: Google Analytics was used to access all search commands on PEDro (between 1 August 2017 and 31 January 2018) and extract the following data: total number of search commands; 25 most common simple and advanced search commands; and frequency of search errors (e.g. Boolean operators) or use of sophisticated features (e.g. truncation). Two researchers independently coded the subdiscipline (e.g. musculoskeletal, neurology) and PICO elements (Population; Intervention; Comparison; Outcome) from a random sample of 200 simple and 200 advanced search commands. Data were compared to an identical analysis performed in 2014-2015 to determine whether the content or quality of search commands had changed.

Results: There has been a very small increase in the use of truncation since 2014-2015 (1.4% increase in simple and 1.9% in advanced search commands; p 0.001) and small reductions in search errors (Boolean operators: 3.7% reduction in simple and 3.2% in advanced; brackets: 0.9% and 0.4%; non-ASCII characters: 3.1% and 1.6%; p 0.001 for all analyses). Overall, only 6% of simple and 9% of advanced search commands used sophisticated features, while 16% of simple and 12% of advanced search commands contained errors. The content of PEDro search commands was largely similar to searches from 2014-2015.

Conclusion(s): There has been a small reduction in the number of search commands containing errors, and only a very small increase in the use of sophisticated features. These improvements are probably explained by video tutorials on how to optimise searching and warnings that appear when users enter search commands containing errors. However, with 16% of simple and 12% of advanced search commands still containing errors, additional strategies to further improve the quality of searches are needed.

Implications: Maximising awareness of the freely-available resources to improve the quality of searches on PEDro is important. However, there is a need for more innovative implementation strategies to improve the quality of PEDro searches. These include, but are not limited to, training in skills for evidence-based practice through seminars, workshops and courses, and search prompts to encourage users to specify their research question (including PICO elements).

Keywords: PEDro, physiotherapy, bibliographic databases

Funding acknowledgements: None received.

Topic: Research methodology & knowledge translation; Education

Ethics approval required: No
Institution: The University of Sydney
Ethics committee: Human Research Ethics Committee
Reason not required: De-identified data from Google Analytics (i.e. web-based metrics)

All authors, affiliations and abstracts have been published as submitted.

Back to the listing