Tips on finding articles on assessment tools (and sometimes the assessment tool itself) in PubMed, CINAHL, SCOPUS, ERIC, and PsycINFO
Tips of retrieving articles on tools
- Most tools have unique names. Put the name of the assessment tool in quotation marks to gain a more precise search, i.e. "action research arm test"
- Try a free-text search. A free-text search retrieves search terms located anywhere in a database record but these searches are very sensitive and will retrieve records not on topic (false retrieval). You can limit searches to specific fields to improve relevancy. Try limiting your search to these fields: TI - Title; AB - Abstract; DE - Descriptor (CINAHL, PsycINFO, ERIC); MeSH (Pubmed); IN - Instrumentation (CINAHL); KC - Key Concept (PsycINFO - tool names sometimes included in this field); TM - Tests and Measures (PsycINFO). Note: check the help section of each database to see what fields are available and how to search them.
- A tool may have a variety of name endings, avoid including the endings in your free-text searches. For example when searching for the Barthel Index it may be called the Barthel Score, Barthel Measure, etc. - the best search may be Barthel
- Since tools tend to have unique names, use the most unique parts in your search and omit the rest. This will keep you from missing articles that had tool description variations you may not be apparent. Example: Mini Mental State Examination / Mini Mental Status Examination - the best search may be: mini mental, especially in the TI, AB, DE, MeSH, IN, KC and TM fields.
- Avoid acronym searches. Not all articles may include the acronym, may use a variant of the acronym or the acronym may represent an unrelated phrase thus resulting in a false retrieval.
- Be careful with phrase searches. The longer the phrase, the less likely you are to find items that match the phrase exactly. Pick a specific part of the tool name and search it. See “mini mental state examination” example above.
- For validity or reliability articles on a tool, do a free-text search with these terms truncated (place an asterisk at end of word root - Example: valid*) and then AND the set with the instrument search set. Example of a validity / reliability search of the the Barthel Index: (valid* OR reliab*) AND Barthel
- Keep your searches simple!
Strategies for specific databases
- CINAHL: The best simple search (in Basic Search mode) is to search IN followed by the name of the tool, i.e "IN Barthel". IN is the code for the instrumentation field that indexes assessment tools. The best thorough search: switch to Advanced Search; add a row; type the name of the assessment tool in each search box, switch all of the the operator boxes to OR; switch one field to TI (Title), one to AB (Abstract), one to MW (Word is Subject Heading), and one to IN (Instrumentation).
- PsycINFO and ERIC: PsycINFO and ERIC have Thesaurus terms for many mental assessment tools, start your search with the Thesaurus (located in Search Tools). In PscyINFO there is also a Tests and Measures field (TM) that indexes these resources. If the tool is not in the Thesuarus then do a free-text search.
- Google: Some tools are available for free on the Internet. Use Google to locate them by phrase searching (place quotation marks around the most unique part of the tool name). Example: “functional abilities confidence”
Searching for a tool that measures a specific outcome
Filter searches for Best Evidence
- For most databases:
- Search the name of the tool. Use quotation marks around the name of the tool to be more percise, i.e "Barthel Index".
- Search for then terms reliability, validity, "sensitivity AND specificity", "predictive value"
- In databases that use subject headings search for corresponding subject headings for reliability, validity, "sensitivity AND specificity", "predictive value," add those to your keyword search for those terms using "OR"
- Combine the set with the results of the tool name search and filter search to locate articles testing the validity of the tools