JAMA Article Recognizes Importance of Medical Librarians

jama-logoby Jillian Oliver

Have you ever considered collaborating with a medical librarian when writing review articles for a health sciences journal? In the September 2014 JAMA article “Engaging Medical Librarians to Improve the Quality of Review Articles,” Rethlefsen, Murad, and Livingston suggest that researchers can improve the quality of review articles by including librarians in research and writing teams. The authors provide a model of how to accomplish this collaboration and highlight many benefits of working with a medical librarian, including assistance with refining the research question, selecting appropriate databases to search, searching techniques, and search terms. Medical librarians can also offer guidance with bibliographic management, which is essential when including information about search methodology within review articles.

Because of their contextual knowledge in database creation and search methodology, medical librarians are well-suited to choosing controlled vocabulary and standardized terminology that facilitate faster, more comprehensive searching possibilities. They can also help optimize the search and retrieval process for finding gray literature (e.g. reports, dissertations, and conference proceedings).

GRU library faculty have co-authored clinical care articles and medical education articles in a variety of journals. Clinical topics have included meta-analysis for performing colonoscopy and exercise induced rhabdomyalsis. Medical education articles have focused on dental information literacy, tutorial development, iPad education integration, and medical education scholarship.

Rethlefsen, Murad, and Livingston propose the following general approach for collaborating with a medical librarian:

  1. Define search question(s) and prospective inclusion and exclusion criteria
  2. Conduct preliminary search to further clarify its scope
  3. Choose data sources based on
    a. Database content
    b. Database platform (vendor, interface)
    c. Search terms
    d. The need for nonindexed (gray) literature
  4. Reduce the research question into major concepts
  5. Develop search terms and synonyms (controlled vocabulary and textwords)
  6. Execute search
  7. Optimize the output
  8. Document the search procedure
  9. Document the search results

For more information about the benefits of incorporating a medical librarian into the review article process, please read the full article at http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1902238. If you are interested in collaborating with a medical librarian on a review article, please contact the embedded librarian for your discipline.