Research Synthesis Methods

Systematic reviews and tech mining: A methodological comparison with case study

Journal Article

  • Author(s): Patricia F. Anderson, Carol Shannon, Skye Bickett, Joanne Doucette, Pamela Herring, Andrea Kepsel, Tierney Lyons, Scott McLachlan, Lin Wu
  • Article first published online: 21 Sep 2018
  • DOI: 10.1002/jrsm.1318
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When the Medical Library Association identified questions critical for the future of the profession, it assigned groups to use systematic reviews to find the answers to these questions. Group 6, whose question was on emerging technologies, recognized early on that the systematic review process would not work well for this question, which looks forward to predict future trends, whereas the systematic review process looks back in time. We searched for new methodologies that were more appropriate to our question, developing a process that combined systematic review, text mining, and visualization techniques. We then discovered tech mining, which is very similar to the process we had created.

In this paper, we describe our research design and compare tech mining and systematic review methodologies. There are similarities and differences in each process: Both use a defined research question, deliberate database selection, careful and iterative search strategy development, broad data collection, and thoughtful data analysis. However, the focus of the research differs significantly, with systematic reviews looking to the past and tech mining mainly to the future.

Our comparison demonstrates that each process can be enhanced from a purposeful consideration of the procedures of the other. Tech mining would benefit from the inclusion of a librarian on their research team and a greater attention to standards and collaboration in the research project. Systematic reviews would gain from the use of tech mining tools to enrich their data analysis and corporate management communication techniques to promote the adoption of their findings.

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