Appraisal of: Armstrong R, Jackson N, Doyle J, Waters E, Howes F. It's in your hands: the value of handsearching in conducting systematic reviews of public health interventions. J Public Health (Oxf). 2005; 27(4): 388-391.

Short description: 

Aim of the study was to identify value of handsearching in conducting systematic reviews of public health interventions. 6 journals with the highest yield of RCTs and CCTs in Central and not currently being handsearch by the Cochrane Collaboration were prioritized to be handsearched. All journals´ issues (including supplements) published in 2003 and 2004 were handsearched. A total of 92 issues were handsearched. Of the 131 RCTs and CCTs identifierd by handsearching, 125 would have been identified through a MELDINE search using the PICO framework. If the search included study design limits (PICOt), a further 7 trials would have been missed. The greatest value of handsearching was found to be in supplement editions and abstract sections of journals.

Limitations stated by the author(s): 

No limitations were stated by the authors.

Limitations stated by the reviewer(s): 
It is not clear if the relevant studies identified by hand search were indexed in Medline (2 trials were abstracts only, 3 studies were identified in supplement editions of journals which were not indexed in MEDLINE, 1 trial could not be found in MEDLINE (the entire issue appeared to be missing from MEDLINE). The study did not compare hand searching with a Boolean search or a validated RCT filter. It was only stated that 7 trials provided no information in the abstract, title or subject headings of the random allocation of interventions (randomization was mentioned in the methods section of the article) – meaning study type was not mentioned.
Study Type: 
Single study