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Controlled search term vocabularies for finding articles relevant to injury prevention and safety promotion
  1. David W Lawrence
  1. Karolinska Institutet, Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of International Health (IHCAR), Injuries' Social Aetiology and Consequences Group, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr David W Lawrence, Center for Injury Prevention Policy and Practice, San Diego State University, PO Box 15817, San Diego, CA 92175, USA; david.lawrence{at}


Objectives To assess the usefulness of the controlled vocabularies of PubMed/MEDLINE and PsycINFO for finding articles on injury prevention and safety promotion (IPSP) topics and to identify specific indexing problems that can contribute to incomplete retrieval.

Methods Professional reference librarians provided search strategies for finding articles relevant to five topics pertaining to the injury prevention field in the two bibliographic databases. The results of implementing these search strategies were compared with the results of a presumptive gold standard—serial textword searches on the same topics. The index terms assigned to the articles that were missed by the librarian strategies were examined.

Results The search products of the librarian-constructed search strategies identified 34–91% of the IPSP-relevant articles that were identified through serial textword searches of the two databases. Specific indexing issues were found to contribute to this loss.

Conclusions Librarians bring expertise to searching, but irregular or incomplete indexing can limit the product of even well-constructed searches for articles on IPSP topics.

  • Information-seeking behaviour
  • literature databases
  • information Availability
  • bibliometrics
  • database
  • information tech
  • standards
  • terminology

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  • Competing interests DWL is a member of the editorial board of Injury Prevention and is editor/publisher of SafetyLit.

  • Ethics approval The protocol for this study received ethical approval from the institutional review board for human subjects research at San Diego State University.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.