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Reviewing the reviews: the example of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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By Joyce J, Rabe-Hesketh S, Wessely S • www.ProHealth.com • July 15, 1998


OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that the selection of
literature in review articles is unsystematic and is
influenced by the authors' discipline and country of
residence.

DATA SOURCES: Reviews in English published between
1980 and March 1996 in MEDLINE, EMBASE (BIDS), PSYCHLIT, and
Current Contents were searched.

STUDY SELECTION: Reviews of
chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) were selected. Articles
explicitly concerned with a specialty aspect of CFS and
unattributed, unreferenced, or insufficiently referenced
articles were discarded.

DATA EXTRACTION: Record of data
sources in each review was noted as was the departmental
specialty of the first author and his or her country of
residence. The references cited in each index paper were
tabulated by assigning them to 6 specialty categories, by
article title, and by assigning them to 8 categories, by
country of journal publication.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Of 89 reviews,
3 (3.4%) reported on literature search and described search
method. Authors from laboratory-based disciplines
preferentially cited laboratory references, while
psychiatry-based disciplines preferentially cited psychiatric
literature (P = .01). A total of 71.6% of references cited by
US authors were from US journals, while 54.9% of references
cited by United Kingdom authors were published in United
Kingdom journals (P = .001).

CONCLUSION: Citation of the
literature is influenced by review authors' discipline and
nationality.




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