Objective: To assess the capacity of textword queries to provide a comprehensive listing of articles on injury prevention and safety promotion (IPSP) concepts in a literature database.
Methods: All terms used to search SafetyLit (a database of scholarly literature selected for its relevance to the IPSP field) during the years 2000–2005 were listed and then examined to identify terms that are synonyms for the same concept. Terms were grouped by concept, the number of queries that used terms within each concept category were summed, and the concepts were then ordered by the total number of searches for each concept category. For each textword, the proportion of all articles for that concept that could be found by using it alone was calculated.
Results: Each of the 25 most searched-for concepts has 4 to 40 synonyms. Sixteen of the concepts required queries using two or more terms to find 75% of the available articles. Few searchers used a sufficient number of textword synonyms in their queries to return a complete listing of the available material.
Conclusion: On the basis of this study, queries using only one or two textword terms are insufficiently sensitive to find all relevant journal articles about an IPSP concept.
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Competing interests: DWL is the editor of SafetyLit. SafetyLit is currently supported through contracts with several government agencies of the State of California, USA. This research, however, was self-supported. It was not supported by those government contracts. The SafetyLit electronic mailing list and website contain no advertising. SafetyLit is a free service.
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