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Systematic Reviews, Scoping Reviews, and other Knowledge Syntheses

Updating the database searches

Updating the database searches

There are different methods that you can use to update your searches, and they are usually database-specific. What you are trying to do is avoid screening the same records all over again.

One method is to restrict records to those entered into the database on or after the date you last ran the search (note: this is NOT the publication date, this is the date the record was added to the database, and this date field is not available in all databases).

This can be done in PubMed, MEDLINE on Ovid, Embase, Scopus, CINAHL, and PsycINFO (as well as others), but unfortunately the entry date is not available as a search field in Cochrane or Web of Science.

Search Field to Use
Example: Updating a search on March 3, 2019 (20190301) last run on November 11, 2015 (20151119):
CINAHL EBSCOhost EM (Entry date) (field code info) EM 20151119-20190301 then use AND to join this line to the last line of your search
Embase OvidSP .dc. (field code info) limit x to dc=20151119-20190301
MEDLINE OvidSP .dt,ez,ed. (field code info)

(20151119 or 2015112* or 2015113* or 201512* or 2016* or 2017* or 2018* or 2019*).dt,ez,ed.  then use AND to join this line to the last line of your search

(ed refers to the date that MeSH are added and may increase duplicates but can identify indexed records previously missed by textword searching)

PsycINFO OvidSP .up. (field code info) limit x to up=20151119-20190301
PubMed - CRDT (field code info) #x AND "2015/11/19"[CRDT] : "3000"[CRDT]

Alternative method to retrieve new records only

Here is an example of how you can restrict Ovid MEDLINE records to only those records that you had not previously screened from the original MEDLINE search:

  • You should have a saved copy of the MEDLINE records from the previously run search in your files (this will often be in an EndNote library but you may also have saved the records in a .ris file etc.; the latter would have to be imported into an EndNote library)
  • You can merge the previous EndNote library of MEDLINE records and the updated EndNote library of MEDLINE records (be sure to use a deduplicated version of the updated EndNote library before starting the steps below)
    • In a new EndNote library, import the records from the original MEDLINE search, place them in their own group, and Use Tools > Change/Move/Copy Fields to move the accession number from the accession number field to the label field in the record (it's okay to replace the entire field)
    • In the same EndNote library, import the records from the new MEDLINE search, place them in their own group, and use Tools > Change/Move/Copy Fields to move the accession number from the accession number field to the label field:Move/Copy fields tab, select Move Field, From Accession Number to Label
      • Be sure to remove duplicate records from this group: Go to Edit > Preferences > Duplicates: Check off the label field for comparison, make sure you have only selected the new group of records (you can highlight the new records in the new group, just to be sure); go to References > Find Duplicates and get rid of any duplicate records (leaving one copy behind) showing up in the new group
    • In All References, with Edit > Preferences > Duplicates comparing the label field only (to which you've moved the accession number), perform a Find Duplicates search: The duplicates will be placed in a Duplicate References folder: Highlight all the records in that folder and delete them
    • If there are still records left in the old MEDLINE group, you can remove those as you have already screened them

You can also merge old and new records from other database searches (e.g., Web of Science, Cochrane Library):

  • Place the updated/new records in one group and the old records in another (to allow you to keep track of what old records are not being removed as duplicates--this will be useful later)
    • Always make sure the new group of records does not contain duplicates because you will be removing all copies of duplicate records and you don't want to remove all copies of duplicate records if they're only in the new set!
  • Search for duplicates by comparing the author/title/secondary title/volume/pages fields, for example, then, after checking to make sure they are true duplicates (e.g., no blank fields in the record causing false duplicates to be picked up): Highlight all the records in the Duplicate References folder and send to the trash
  • You will hopefully notice that the number of records in the old records group will be very low, if the removal of old and new copies of the same record has worked; that said, there may be some stragglers:
    • You can then highlight the leftover records in the old record group and go back to All References and sort by title to see if there are any new copies of the old records that your search for duplicates missed: Delete both copies of any leftover duplicates you find
    • There may be some leftover records in the old record group that do not have duplicates in the new record group: You can delete those because you should have already screened them prior to the update

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