Resources for handsearchers


Getting involved as a Handsearcher

Handsearching involves the laborious task of searching through medical journals for accounts of controlled trials which are not yet indexed in the major electronic databases like MEDLINE and EMBASE. Less than a third of the world's medical journals are routinely indexed in the major electronic databases. Most Review Groups, Fields, and Centres are seeking volunteer handsearchers and will provide the necessary training and support. Handsearching of journals is coordinated by the US Cochrane Center.

Online handsearching course

The free-of-charge online course Handsearching: Identifying and Classifying Controlled Trial Reports has been transferred to a new platform. The course has been created as part of the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group US Project (CEVG@US Project), which is funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health.

The objective of the course is to serve as a training exercise for those planning to engage in handsearching.

Target audience: Although the final assessment is related to eyes and vision, the course is applicable and useful to health professionals from all specialties.  There are no prerequisites for this Course, but participants should have a basic knowledge of the approaches and language related to study design.

Description of the course: This course includes both didactic lessons and knowledge assessments. Participants need about 7 hours to complete the course, but will be able to return to any part of the course at any time. We also ask you to complete before and after surveys, where you can let us know more about yourself and what you felt you gained from the course.  We pay close attention to your feedback, so please complete these surveys!

A summary of the lessons is as follows:

Module 1. Why is Handsearching Important? Describes the rationale for the creation of Cochrane and the development of the Cochrane CENTRAL Register of Controlled Trials ("CENTRAL" for short), Cochrane's source of trial reports.

Module 2. Handsearching in 5 Steps: Describes where in journal articles the information needed for identification and classification of trial reports may be found, and outlines the step-by-step decision making necessary in identification and classification for trial reports as RCTs, CCTs, or neither.

Assessments: These assessments are intended for users who have read through both course modules and successfully completed the quizzes within them.

Abstracts with Abstract Examples: Provides a self-assessment exercise in identifying and classifying trial reports from abstracts as RCTs, CCTs, or neither.

Full-Text Article Examples: Provides a self-assessment exercise in identifying and classifying trial reports as RCTs, CCTs, or neither.

Handsearching Test: Tests the trainee's ability to identify and classify trial reports as RCTs, CCTs, or neither by handsearching 6 months of a journal.

Link to the course:

Other resources for handsearchers:

This resource was first presented at the workshop "Learning to identify and classify reports of controlled trials in healthcare journal," Cochrane Colloquium, Cape Town (October 2000). The resource provides examples of various types of study designs and how they should be classified by Cochrane handsearchers. Medline abstracts are used to illustrate the different types of study designs.

Cochrane Policy Manual.