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The Cochrane Stroke Group. Helping reviewers to identify trials. Brenda Thomas Alison McInnes Peter Sandercock. Role of the Information Specialist. Plan, implement and co-ordinate a comprehensive trials identification strategy Assess and code relevant trials

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The cochrane stroke group

The Cochrane Stroke Group

Helping reviewers

to identify trials

Brenda Thomas

Alison McInnes

Peter Sandercock

Role of the information specialist
Role of the Information Specialist

  • Plan, implement and co-ordinate a comprehensive trials identification strategy

  • Assess and code relevant trials

  • Develop and maintain a specialised register of randomised trials and controlled clinical trials

  • Support reviewers

  • Contribute to the editorial process

Considerable time and resources are committed to maximising trial identification

The cochrane stroke group

A systematic approach to trial identification and management

  • Multiple overlapping search strategies

    • electronic resources

    • handsearching and translation

    • personal communication

  • Trials register: relational database where the trial is the unit of data

    • facilitates preparation and updating of reviews

    • reliably tracks trial information

    • identifies areas where reviews are needed

    • monitors review quality: ensures reviews are kept up-to-date

    • Used to influence future trials searching activities

The cochrane stroke group

Search Strategies

  • 20 electronic bibliographic databases

  • Handsearch and translation programme

  • More than 500 relevant electronic journals

  • Web-based international clinical trials and research registers (ongoing studies)

  • Websites: e.g. press releases, research centres

  • Contact with trialists and drug companies (unpublished studies)

Supported by the considerable resources of

The University of Edinburgh and NHS Scotland e-library

The cochrane stroke group

Bibliographic databases




  • AMED, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Digital Dissertations, FROSTI, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, MANTIS, Occupational Therapy Journal of Research Index, SPORTDiscus, Wilson Social Sciences Abstracts

Many thousands of references to be screened

The cochrane stroke group

Handsearching and translation

  • 26 volunteer handsearchers

  • 48 specialist Journals (6 languages)

  • 147 books and conference proceedings

  • 47 volunteer translators from 19 countries

  • 700 non-English trial reports (20 languages)

  • 56% Chinese or Japanese

Contribution of volunteers has been crucial

The cochrane stroke group

Growth of Trials Register

Approximately 1000 trial reports identified per year

The cochrane stroke group

The Stroke Group Trials Register Today

8137 trial reports

3598 individual stroke trials

Found in

900 different journal titles

121 conference proceedings

143 books and dissertations

130 electronic sources

Included in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials

Example new review title

Stroke Group Reviews

Example: new review title

More than 250 International Stroke Group collaborators based in 22 countries have contributed to the production of 77 Cochrane Systematic Reviews

Acupuncture for stroke rehabilitation

Reviewers based in China

How can the stroke group help identify trials
How can the Stroke Group help identify trials?

  • Regular searches of Stroke Group Trials Register

  • Developing search strategies and running searches of bibliographic databases and trials registers

  • Advice on other appropriate trial identification strategies e.g. specialist databases

  • Handsearching specialist journals and conference proceedings

  • Translation

Avoid duplication!

Searches of trials registers
Searches of trials registers

  • Cochrane Stroke Group Trials Register

  • Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials

  • Cochrane Complementary Field Registry


  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

  • The Centralised Information Service for Complementary Medicine (CISCOM)

  • Chinese Stroke Trials Register

  • Chinese Acupuncture Trials Register


Intervention based searches of bibliographic databases
Intervention-based searches of bibliographic databases




  • Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED)

  • China Biological Medicine Database (CBM-disc)

Avoid overlap with Stroke Group searches

Stroke group general strategy modified for each database
Stroke Group general strategymodified for each database










Screened for stroke trials

Review specific intervention based strategy
Review-specificintervention-based strategy

Highly sensitive










Review specific



Screened for


relevant trials

Other help finding trials
Other help finding trials

  • Sourcing paper copies of “difficult to find” trial reports

  • Contacting authors for information on trials with limited information

  • Arranging translation of non-English language trial reports

The information specialist and the review process
The Information Specialist and the review process

  • Advice on trial identification methods

  • Guidance on writing search methods section of protocol and review

  • Editorial comment as part of review process

Updating reviews
Updating reviews

  • Searches of Stroke Group trials register on demand

  • Update searches of bibliographic databases

  • New search sources can be identified

Active support can help motivate reviewers

Reviewers need varying degrees of help
Reviewers need varying degrees of help

  • Access to databases

  • Previous literature searching experience

  • Availability of local librarians

  • Problems accessing journals and conference proceedings

  • English language limitations

Stroke Group


  • The Stroke Group provides considerable support for reviewers searching for trials

  • The major resource is the Stroke Group Trials Register which is comprehensive and rapidly expanding

  • The Information Specialist devises additional complementary strategies to maximise trial identification

  • The quality of the search strategy section of reviews is monitored as part of the review process