Another Search Bug? Now in the Cochrane Library!

16 10 2008

It seems that I’m becoming an expert in search problems and bugs.
Partly because I search a lot, but also because my colleagues and I often share our search problems.

This time, while giving a class, Hanny and Heleen noticed that (a) combining two terms in the Cochrane Library Search Bar with ‘and’ gives less hits than when you (b) search for those terms individually and combine them in the History with ‘and’ (see Figures). This is odd, because it should not make any difference whether you look these words up individually (which takes more time) or combine them directly. The field in which both these terms should occur is in the title, abstract and/or keyword field.
(c) Searching via advanced search has the same effect as searching the terms separately in the search bar (#7, #9)

The 3 search modes (click to enlarge)

Two examples are given below: (1) obesity and sibutramine (sets #1-#9) and (2) sibutramine and body weight (#10-#14).
Both obesity and body weight are MeSH (key words from MEDLINE).

Search History showing results two examples (click on Figure to enlarge)

It is unclear why certain records can’t be found when combining them in the search bar. The order doesn’t matter, for instance. It might have something to do with certain keywords not being found when the keyword command is not directly next to term sought (set #12 in Search History, and figure below).

Anyway this is highly undesirable. Especially for the beginner, who just wants to find a cochrane systematic review by doing a quick search. Hopefully this ‘bug’ will be fixed soon, because important papers might be missed (see below).

Missed papers (have one of the terms exclusively in the keyword (MeSH)section



3 responses

20 10 2008
Another bug in the Cochrane Library? « de Bibliotheker’s Weblog

[…] bug in the Cochrane Library? Laika Spoetnik reported last week a bug in the Cochrane Library: searching for (obesity sibutramine):ti,ab,kw gave […]

20 10 2008
20 10 2008

According to the debibliotheker’s suggestion placed at her own blog (and in English for this opportunity) this is not a bug, but a ‘ wrong’ command.

Indeed she has found the correct solution. With the command (obesity and sibutramine):ti,ab,kw you search for both obesity AND sibutramine together in the SAME field, be it in title, abstract or keyword-field. Therefore you find less hits than when you search for (obesity:ti,ab,kw AND sibutramine:ti,ab,kw), which means that each term just has to be present in any of the 3 fields. (very good thinking, Sherlock)

Still, whether you call this a bug or not, I find it very ‘misleading’ or at least very unclear.
When people type in the search bar obesity AND sibutramine they don’t expect that both words are sought together in the same field, they expect that you search for those words anywhere in those fields. It is meant as a simple, quick and dirty search strategy.
Also if you search for (obesity and sibutramine).ti,ab. in OVID MEDLINE you find papers with obesity and sibutramine anywhere in title or abstract. The same is true for other databases I know.

I wonder if Wiley really is aware about the way searches are translated.

Thus, as long as this is not changed I will advice people to search via advanced search.
Furthermore in case of sensitive searches, you should put the field codes after each individual term. Omg.

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