Delivering the results of a literature search

My primary job at work is to be the point person for in-depth literature searching. I don’t do all of it, but for science and technology needs I get first dibs and then I share out work that can be better done by another librarian (bio goes to A.C. who has a bio degree) or if I am too busy. In-depth literature searching is typically anywhere from 4-40 hours worth of work, pulling information from external information resources and arranging it so that it’s useful for the end user. Once I do a reference interview and then go back and forth to make sure I understand what’s needed, I do the searching, I analyze the results, and then I deliver the results of the search. This often results in an in-person meeting, but there’s always some text aspect.

I most often deliver my results in a word document. I start by encapsulating what they requested and providing a brief summary of the most salient points. In this summary I also mention if there are promising areas that turned up in the search or if there was a notable lack of information in an area. I then have a clickable list of headings which jump you down to citations that fit each heading. Sometimes there will be a discussion under a heading describing what’s going on in this part of the literature or anything interesting. I deliver the citations with an abstract and sometimes I’ll highlight things in the abstract. Recently, I’ve been including a section all the way at the bottom with search methods and resources used. A couple of times my work has been turned over to an external sponsor who was surprised/impressed that I found so much and has demanded to know how I did it. I track this stuff anyway (the scientist in me) so now I’m adding it more proactively to the report.  My boss is big on branding so I might go back to putting a logo at the top, but I’ve been leaving that off recently.

Other times I’ve added things to a wiki or SharePoint site, I’ve delivered a database of citations, I’ve created a spreadsheet of data, and I’ve delivered a kml file to be used in Google Earth. Sometimes I’ll just deliver the results in an e-mail, it just depends.

MaryEllen Bates talks at conferences about how to best package the results of your search. I highly recommend attending one of these sessions. I’m pretty sure she’s written this up,too, so check it out.

So what’s brought this up now is a ResearchBlogging overview of an article [*] on delivering results using 2.0 technologies.  I can’t cover the article better than Jacqueline does, so I’ll refer you to her blog post. I’ll offer here just some general thoughts.

  • access to the full text of identified articles – I’ve used RefWorks’ openurl output format to allow recipients to locate full text using our open url resolver, I’ve attached particularly relevant articles to the e-mail, I’ve provided direct links… but what happens most often is I’ll get a highlighted report back or a set of item numbers back and I’ll e-mail the pdfs.
  • the authors had problems with e-mails getting lost – I don’t know that that has happened, but sometimes my report won’t be viewed for a couple of weeks, and then I’ll hear back about it
  • they ruled out RefWorks because it required two sets of logins/passwords – hmm, why not RefWorks with RefShare? Why two sets of passwords?
  • SharePoint wikis suck. I would probably use some other type of web part – even a discussion board entry for each article.
  • they really didn’t use the 2.0 aspects of the 2.0 tools – particularly in the case of the wiki. The most valued aspects were access without a lot of logins and then access to the full text without a lot of clicks.

I would be interested in hearing other approaches – particularly using newer tools.

[*] Damani S, & Fulton S (2010). Collaborating and delivering literature search results to clinical teams using web 2.0 tools. Medical reference services quarterly, 29 (3), 207-17 PMID: 20677061

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