Step 2 Searching for the best external information

Publication of biomedical information has now expanded so much that it is hard to contemplate searching for relevant information without some form of electronic bibliographic search, followed by reading the original key papers. Most of us (including the authors) are not experts at performing complex electronic searches, and need to learn such skills. These are dealt with in more detail by Bigby in Chapter 6. As pointed out earlier, traditional expert reviews are risky because often they have not been done systematically, and the links between the author's conclusions and the data are often unclear.22 If one is searching for trials, then the Medline and Embase databases are also hazardous sources unless one is proficient, because simply searching by "clinical trials" type can miss up to half the relevant trials because of coding problems. The world's most comprehensive database of trials is now the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Clinical Trials, containing over 340 000 records on 1 May 2002. Thankfully, it is also the easiest to search.

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