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Searching for acupuncture trials: which database?
  1. Adrian White, Research Fellow,
  2. Karl-Ludwig Resch, Senior Lecturer,
  3. Edzard Ernst, Professor in Complementary Medicine
  1. Centre for Complementary Health Studies and Postgraduate Medical School, University of Exeter, 25 Victoria Park Road, Exeter, EX2 4NT

    Summary

    Evidence based medicine depends on sensitive, precise and informative searches for references to controlled clinical trials. Five databases: Medline, Centralised Information Service for Complementary Medicine (CISCOM), Science Citation Index (SCI), British Library and Embase, were compared for their effectiveness as literature search tools by conducting test searches for acupuncture trials in a single sample year, 1992. CISCOM showed the greatest sensitivity, followed by Medline and SCI; all three usually provided abstracts, but CISCOM did not provide authors' addresses. Other databases had features that might make them useful for particular purposes. SCI, British Library and Embase covered a different range of journals from Medline, including acupuncture specialist journals, but of these three only SCI contained an additional relevant reference; it also had the advantages of secondary references and associated correspondence. Indexing of Medline appeared to be more effective for acupuncture than for some other complementary and orthodox medical subjects. It was concluded that the CISCOM search was the most sensitive, and that Medline and SCI had other benefits which were significant.

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