Searching the literature
Many practitioners and patients (and certainly students) now search the internet for specific acupuncture related material. This need not be for research as such, it could equally well be to find out about contemporary Chinese (or other) approaches for particular situations - diagnostic patterns seen, points used, needling methods, novel techniques, adjunctive therapies, prognoses. Unless you have particular sites in mind already this is likely to be a lengthy and frustrating experience, even if bizarrely interesting in places. We would recommend the free, searchable database at www.acubriefs.com . This includes material relating to a number of Chinese journals (with English abstracts) that are not covered by most other databases. (It also includes acupuncture material from Medline, the free US government database that is usually the first port of call for medical articles of all sorts). ARRC has access to more material, but perhaps not a lot more, and there is much to be said for doing your own searches.
|Choosing key words/terms for literature searches
- Use US as well as English spelling: 'labor' will get you more results than 'labour', though some databases now automatically cover common spelling variations.
- Some topics are not well defined in that they require many different key words to encompass the material e.g. mental/emotional/psychological/spiritual/shen/depression/anxiety, plus others, may all be required if you're looking into aspects of mental health.
- Some illnesses tend to be named differently in Chinese articles as in Western ones, for example 'facial paralysis' v. 'bells palsy'.
- Watch out for different variations on the same word stem - depressed, depression, depressive. Many databases allow you to use an asterisk or other symbol as a 'wild card': thus 'acupunct*' should cover 'acupuncture' and 'acupuncturist' (but not 'acupressure' or 'electroacupuncture').
For the most part, the outcome of such a search will be list of references and abstracts (if they exist) that you will have to follow up yourself to get hold of the corresponding full articles. ARRC does not hold large stocks of journals --considerably less than most acupuncture college libraries in fact - we order copies of individual articles of interest from the British Library where necessary.
This can be done through the British Library website (www.bl.uk) with a turnaround of just a few days (or less, if you take the electronic option) and a charge that is less for institutional than individual users (for the latter, more than a handful of articles would soon become very expensive). Alternatives: your local library (cheap, but may take a while), an institutional library, if you have access (may be cheap or even free) or in person at the BL in London or Boston Spa (N.Yorks), where you can photocopy articles. The Wellcome Library (Euston Road, London) is particularly good on historical aspects of Chinese medicine. Ordering direct from a journal's publisher may be cheaper than the BL. Ordering via databases such as Medline, or electronic journal resources such as Ingenta, is usually prohibitively expensive.
Categories of information to look at on the internet
Note: Most of the examples given below are listed in the Websites area of Information.
[Examples: Medline, Acubriefs]
These hold reference citations and abstracts and are usually the main workhorses for a literature search. The articles referenced may be accounts of new and original research but also there are many reviews of existing work (see below), instructional and educational articles and other categories.
[Example: Science Citation Index]
One way of expanding your initial trawl is to follow up the references listed in articles that you have already obtained. Citation indexes carry out a similar function but the other way round. All articles listed after searching on a topic will state the number of subsequent articles that have cited it: their details can then be displayed. Thus you can work forward from a particular key paper to find others in the field that have cited it. The SCI is freely available only through a subscribing institution.
Catalogues of contents
[Example: Zetoc (http://zetoc.mimas.ac.uk)]
Zetoc allows you to search the contents of the British Library's catalogue of thousands of journals and conference proceedings in science, social science and humanities. It provides only reference details, no abstracts, subject headings or other text. It is freely available only through UK higher/further education institutes, the NHS and a few other bodies.
Research in progress
[Examples: RePORT Expenditures and Results - RePORTER - (http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm)]
This new tool replaces the CRISP system and retains all of its the features while providing additional query fields, hit lists that can be sorted and downloaded to Excel, NIH funding for each project (expenditures), and the publications and patents that have acknowledged support from each project (results). RePORTER also provides links to PubMed Central and PubMed .
Reviews and summaries of existing research
[Examples: Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (www.york.ac.uk/inst/crd/),
Cochrane (www.cochrane.org/reviews/index.htm )]
These contain reviews, usually of the evidence for effectiveness of a particular intervention for a particular medical condition. Some are rigorously scientific and some are looser. You should be aware of the criteria used to select and assess the studies, as that can have a major impact on the results. Also be aware of the affiliations of the authors: those from an overtly sceptical background will usually produce a negative review, and vice-versa.
Directories of resources
[Examples: OMNI (http://www.intute.ac.uk/)]
There are countless such directories, covering everything from one particular therapy, such as acupuncture, to the whole of medicine or science. It's easy to browse through to the area you're interested in and many have search facility. Compared with general internet search engines (see below) they will greatly reduce the number of sites you have to sift through, hopefully restricting it to the more pertinent ones (however no one directory can cover every site that may be useful). Nowdays many universities and government bodies maintain CAM resource directories and these would be expected to make some attempt to control the quality of their lists. OMNI is a free catalogue of hand-selected and evaluated internet resources in health and medicine aimed at students, lecturers, researchers and practitioners. It comes within the larger collection of The Resource Discovery Network, the UK's free national gateway to internet resources for the learning, teaching and research community.
Internet search engines
These work best for very specific search terms: they are the tool of choice for finding information about named individuals and organisations, unusual illnesses and/or treatments, particular websites whose URL is not known and a myriad of other enquiries.
You can focus your search more directly with medical search engines such as MedHunt (www.hon.ch/MedHunt ) or Medical World Search (www.mwsearch.com ) [the latter requires a subscription].
Sources of funding
See the list of acupuncture/research related books under Information sources
Publisher's lists and library catalogues are usually available on the internet now, for example the British Library's catalogue of books can be found at http://catalogue.bl.uk.
- See Information sources for a comprehensive list of acupuncture related journals, with their web site URLs.
- You can also trace journals in lists such as PubList (www.publist.com )
- More and more journals are published electronically as well as on paper. Usually you can see tables of contents and some abstracts but access to the full texts requires payment. Some journals offer one free article per issue; others allow access a certain period of time (commonly one year) after publication.
- A few free journals are published only electronically, e.g. BioMed Central (Medical Resources, Including CAM).
MacBeckner W & Berman BM. "Complementary therapies on the internet". Churchill Livingstone, 2003.