Effective use of a well-defined controlled vocabulary built into a database facilitates the comprehensiveness of literature search results. The lack of controlled vocabularies for particular professions or topics equally impedes the effectiveness of such searches. This barrier to building a mutual literature compendium was highlighted in the process of developing search strategies for the International Consortium of Manual Therapies project. The librarians developing search hedges for the group found that the lack of controlled vocabulary specific to manual therapy professions and techniques impacted the efficiency and specificity of the search results.
The team created a set of defined search hedges or strings for each included manual therapy profession in order to facilitate consistent searching. Search hedges for use with the chosen database PubMed include a mix of natural language keywords and MeSH headings; MeSH is the controlled vocabulary built into the database. The set of search hedges was used to identify usable literature as well as to identify challenges to such searching.
The librarians tasked to develop search hedges for the group found that the lack of controlled vocabulary specific to manual therapy professions and techniques impacted the specificity of search results. Pubmed lacks sufficient clearly defined terms within MeSH related to manual therapy professions, complicating the development of search hedges designed to distinguish one particular manual therapy profession from another. This lack also leads to excessive noise in the search findings - each search is likely to find many articles relating to other medical professions and techniques without any way to either find or eliminate them other than through direct review. This presentation will highlight the challenges in searching for literature specific to distinct manual therapy professions, and the need for a more extensive and refined set of MeSH terms.