Hunting Grounds: Where to look for studies
Most research studies are published in professional journals. Some journals are published by a trade group or organization, such as JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, or Lamaze International’s own Journal of Perinatal Education. Some journals are freestanding, independent of any organization. A good example of this is Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care.
Some journals are “peer reviewed”. This process involves both an editor and multiple independent experts reviewing manuscripts for publication and ensuring they meet minimum standards. While not a perfect process by any means, the peer-reviewed journals are generally considered to be higher quality and more reliable sources. This category includes most of the well-known and respected journals. Journals that are not peer reviewed have an editor making all the decisions, and this editor may or may not be impartial.
So how can you, as a childbirth professional, find studies on a topic you are interested in if you don’t have any idea when or in which journal an article may have been published?
There are many indexes out there that can come in handy for just this sort of thing. Let’s look at a few of the most commonly used ones on the internet.
Google Scholar is a division of Google that you can find in the dropdown menu under “more” at the top of the page. The search will focus on academic articles and abstracts posted on the web.
EBSCO is a service that provides access to multiple databases on a wide range of topics. EBSCO access often includes CINAHL, a great database for childbirth issues. While the public can’t access EBSCO directly, it is available through a variety of places. For example, I can use my library card to access EBSCO through the Salt Lake County Library System here. Don’t have a SL County library card? Try your local public library, they may offer it online or in person. Did you go to college? Check and see if your college provides online access to alumni. If you are a current college student, your school’s library will likely have access. Even for those who are not current or former students, most college libraries allow free access if you come into the library. Hospital libraries may also allow some access. Call first to make sure!
PubMed A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine that includes over 17 million citations from MEDLINE and other life science journals for biomedical articles back to the 1950s. PubMed includes links to full text articles and other related resources. Many articles on Pubmed have been assigned a Pubmed ID number, or PMID. If you see a citation that includes a PMID, just go to PubMed and type it in for quick access.
NLM Gateway Has many different indexes all in one place. A little trickier to use but can save time if you are proficient.
If you know where the study was published, you can try going directly to the web site of the journal that published it. Often this is the way to go when you read of a study in the paper or hear about it on TV. They might say “In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine….”, making it very obvious to go and search there.
When you get to the index you want to use, you’ll do a search using the key words you think will best help you locate the articles you want. My next post will cover some tips and techniques for using key words effectively.
Search results usually come up with a list of citations showing the title, authors, date and place where it was published, and sometimes an abstract. The abstract is a short summary of the study that will give you an idea if this article is a good fit or not. If the abstract does not show during the initial search, you can usually view it by clicking on the article title.
In this example, you can click on the title of the study to view the abstract. You could also click on the “Related Articles” to view citations of other studies on the same topic. This result also gives a link to where you can find the full text of the study for free. This will not always be the case, as some journals do not share full articles online for free. But some do!
The abstract alone may be all you need to know, or you may want to read the full study. You can find the full study by visiting the journal’s web site (where it still may not be free) or by visiting a library to use the library’s access to view it for free. If you don’t have a university or medical library near you, ask a librarian at the public library if they can obtain a copy for you using interlibrary loan or another service. In my experience, librarians really know the tricks to get articles you might need.
Next time: Using key words effectively!