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Volume 29 , Issue 1
January/February 2016

Pages 20–27


Search Strategy to Identify Dental Survival Analysis Articles Indexed in MEDLINE

Danielle M. Layton, BDSc, MDSc, MSc, DPhil/Michael Clarke, BA, DPhil


PMID: 26757323
DOI: 10.11607/ijp.4304

Purpose: Articles reporting survival outcomes (time-to-event outcomes) in patients over time are challenging to identify in the literature. Research shows the words authors use to describe their dental survival analyses vary, and that allocation of medical subject headings by MEDLINE indexers is inconsistent. Together, this undermines accurate article identification. The present study aims to develop and validate a search strategy to identify dental survival analyses indexed in MEDLINE (Ovid). Materials and Methods: A gold standard cohort of articles was identified to derive the search terms, and an independent gold standard cohort of articles was identified to test and validate the proposed search strategies. The first cohort included all 6,955 articles published in the 50 dental journals with the highest impact factors in 2008, of which 95 articles were dental survival articles. The second cohort included all 6,514 articles published in the 50 dental journals with the highest impact factors for 2012, of which 148 were dental survival articles. Each cohort was identified by a systematic hand search. Performance parameters of sensitivity, precision, and number needed to read (NNR) for the search strategies were calculated. Results: Sensitive, precise, and optimized search strategies were developed and validated. The performances of the search strategy maximizing sensitivity were 92% sensitivity, 14% precision, and 7.11 NNR; the performances of the strategy maximizing precision were 93% precision, 10% sensitivity, and 1.07 NNR; and the performances of the strategy optimizing the balance between sensitivity and precision were 83% sensitivity, 24% precision, and 4.13 NNR. The methods used to identify search terms were objective, not subjective. The search strategies were validated in an independent group of articles that included different journals and different publication years. Conclusions: Across the three search strategies, dental survival articles can be identified with sensitivity up to 92%, precision up to 93%, and NNR of less than two articles to identify relevant records. This research has highlighted the impact that variation in reporting and indexing has on article identification and has improved researchers’ ability to identify dental survival articles.


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