Identify Relevant Trials

The Cochrane Collaboration strives to present the best current evidence on the effects of health care interventions. This means that it is important to identify all relevant trials.

Review groups and fields maintain a Specialized Register of trials, guidelines, reviews, conference proceedings and thesis manuscripts on their particular areas of study. On a quarterly basis, they submit references of the trials to the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) for publication in The Cochrane Library. There are three main strategies used to identify relevant trials: electronically searching relevant databases, collecting information on new and ongoing trials and searching journals by hand.

Review groups and fields search electronic databases on a regular basis to identify relevant articles, and Cochrane Back and Neck (CBN) is no exception. To capture articles missed by electronically searching the databases, we also systematically search the contents of a journal, page by page, to identify all reports of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs). In Cochrane terms, this is called handsearching. This task is time consuming and is, therefore, restricted to major journals. Collaborators around the world are currently handsearching more than 2,000 health care journals.

Each Review Group registers the journals for which they take prime responsibility for searching. Many journals are now available online, which makes the task easier. However, some journals are still difficult to find. The Back and Neck Group is currently registered to search:

  • American Journal of Orthopedics
  • European Spine Journal
  • Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation
  • Journal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques
  • Journal of the American Osteopathic Association
  • Seminars in Spinal Surgery
  • Spine
  • The Spine Journal

Conference proceedings often identify new and ongoing trials. In an effort to keep abreast of trials in neck and back pain, CBN handsearches proceedings from:

  • International Forum for Primary Care Research on Low Back Pain
  • proceedings that are published under the aegis of our registered journals

There are also a number of databases under development on new and ongoing trials that are being searched on a regular basis by CBN.

How can you help?

We particularly need help searching these journals:

  • Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation - Vol 1, 1991 to present
  • Orthopedic Review - All issues
  • Seminars in Spinal Surgery - 1996 to present
  • European Spine Journal - Vol 1-7
  • Journal of Spinal disorders and Techniques - Vol 4, 1991 to Vol 12, 1999
  • American Journal of Orthopedics - 1972 to present

Visit the Cochrane Resources for Handsearchers page for more information on how to hand search. If you are able to help, send your name, contact information and the journal you are able to search to Shireen Harbin, CBN Trials Search Co-ordinator, at We will provide training and support.

If you are involved in spinal research, or are aware of new databases for new and ongoing trials, please send this information to our Cochrane mailbox See our Frequently Asked Questions page for further information.