Sorting through the literature challenges most medical professionals. My "pure science" friends usually have a set search in PubMed that updates on a regular basis so they can find relevant new findings for their research. That strategy helps in my lab-life, but as a practicing nephrologist I often do not know what I need to know until I need to know it. [What a sentence; my apologies in advance to the grammar police.]
The AMWA Journal started a new section this issue to reprint relevant articles from other journals. The first entry in this section caught my eye:
How to search and harvest the medical literature: Let the citations come to you, and how to proceed when they do. Citrome et al. Int J Clin Pract 63:1565, 2009
The article discusses electronic table of contents (eTOCs), automated alerts, stored searches, newsletters, and other available online resources. Article evaluation is addressed in rather standard ways, via title and abstract scanning, along with endorsements by evidence-based medicine groups and other authorities. Electronic storage and indexing is discussed, and online tagging sites noted as a final step. The general approach to their literature harvesting plan is shown in the figure:
I am disappointed by this piece. The general advice is sound; I have eTOCs of major journals in my field emailed when available, as well as keyword notifications from a number of sources. If a title looks appropriate, I click through for the abstract and, often, the article itself. For papers I want ready accessible, I have a PDF library in my Dropbox. If I know I will be able to retrieve the publication online (I belong to a society that publishes the journal, for example), then I may just index it.
My index system is in flux. I bought EndNote as soon as I had a computer. Those in my age bracket who have used typewriters for preparation of grants and manuscripts immediately recognized the value of this type of software. Lately, I have also established a Mendeley Library. This web-based reference manager appears to do everything EndNote can, but with the power of the hive-mind as well. Its Web 2.0 twist involves users providing tags and other meta-data to published literature. I have only played with Mendeley for a few months, but I can see great potential for this type of information in medicine and medical science. I hoped the Citrome piece would include more on these sharing sites for primary steps in literature harvesting, but these authors saw sharing as merely an added final step.
One thought I particularly enjoyed:
A major challenge that remains is determining what is worth reading beyond the abstract and what is worth saving. On a cautionary note, restricting thechoice of journals to what you consider as most worthy works only moderately well, as gems can be found in the most unlikely of places, and publication in a ﬁrst-tier journal is not always a hallmark of quality.
The article did not change my ways; it pretty much summarized what I already do. How do the rest of you go about harvesting the literature? I am especially interested in finding out how others use Mendeley and other such sites as primary literature search tools - or do you?