Development and validation of study filters for identifying controlled non‐randomized studies in PubMed and Ovid MEDLINE Journal Articles uri icon

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  • A retrospective analysis published by the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) in 2018 concluded that no filter for non‐randomized studies (NRS) achieved sufficient sensitivity (≥92%), a precondition for comprehensive information retrieval. New NRS filters are therefore required, taking into account the challenges related to this study type. Our evaluation focused on the development of study filters for NRS with a control group (“controlled NRS”), as this study type allows the calculation of an effect size. In addition, we assumed that due to the more explicit search syntax, controlled NRS are easier to identify than non‐controlled ones, potentially resulting in better performance measures of study filters for controlled NRS. Our aim was to develop study filters for identifying controlled NRS in PubMed and Ovid MEDLINE. We developed two new search filters that can assist clinicians and researchers in identifying controlled NRS in PubMed and Ovid MEDLINE. The reference set was based on 2110 publications in Medline extracted from 271 Cochrane reviews and on 4333 irrelevant references. The first filter maximizes sensitivity (92.42%; specificity 79.67%, precision 68.49%) and should be used when a comprehensive search is needed. The second filter maximizes specificity (92.06%; precision 82.98%, sensitivity 80.94%) and should be used when a more focused search is sufficient.


  • Waffenschmidt, Siw
  • Navarro‐Ruan, Tamara
  • Hobson, Nick
  • Hausner, Elke
  • Sauerland, Stefan
  • Haynes, Robert Brian

publication date

  • September 2020