Expert searching

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 9 September 2015


See also Evidence-based health care | Grey literature | Hand-searching | Reporting standards for literature reviews in health | Search filters & hedges | Snowballing

Expert searching refers to a range of advanced search skills and knowledge that health librarians must cultivate in order to provide advanced research and consultation services to their users. The ability to locate information suited to a specific clinical query is highly coveted in the information age. In addition, health librarians are sought precisely because of their expert skills and ability to locate all relevant research to conduct systematic reviews. To immerse yourself in various discussions of the specific skills, knowledge and abilities needed for expert searching, read MLA's The role of expert searching in health sciences libraries. Keep in mind that it is widely-known that a health librarian's expertise and knowledge of information sources is critical at the outset of any review. You may want to consult an academic health or hospital librarian to discuss what kinds of searching they can support in their work.

For a view of smart searching (which includes aspects of expert searching), see Smart Searching: Logical Steps to Building and Testing Your Literature Search.

Presentation & Handout

What is expert searching?

Expert searching is a mediated process where users seek consultation from a recognized expert such as an information retrieval specialist or librarian. The recognized expert identifies the information need, devises a strategy to uncover useful information and performs a search that requires a combination of the following key skills and knowledge:

  • knowledge of information sources, and subject domain knowledge
  • ability to perceive implications of the articulated information need
  • ability to identify and search resources in proprietary databases and the general web
  • ability to recognize personal searcher limitations
  • knowledge of database indexing or metadata conventions
  • expert knowledge of retrieval systems, platforms, syntax and updating practices
  • ability to employ an iterative and heuristic search process for discovery of evidence
  • ability to efficiently and effectively evaluate retrieved evidence
  • ability to process results and present coherently through removal of irrelevant items from search results
  • ability to document search for end-user information, grant applications, clinical trials or eventual publication
  • ability to use deductive and inductive reasoning combined with subject domain knowledge to respond to information need

See CADTH. Finding the Evidence: Literature Searching Tools in Support of Systematic Reviews

Developing expert searches

  • Take a step-wise approach to constructing your search strategies; break down concepts; keywords
  • Consider developing your search strategies and "filters" in a Word document before going online
  • Use a template or worksheet with concepts listed, Boolean operators, delimitors, databases, websites
  • Create search strategies by using different "block" for each concept & stage
  • Use Boolean operators to connect major concept blocks
  • Invite peer review or critical appraisal from other search experts
  • Document your search activities for auditing, reproducibility

See UTH TMC Handouts & Early Review Organizing Software



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