Introducing PALETTE: An iterative method for conducting a literature search for a review in palliative care

Marieke Zwakman, Lisa M. Verberne, Marijke C. Kars, Lotty Hooft, Johannes J. M. van Delden, René Spijker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In the rapidly developing specialty of palliative care, literature reviews have become increasingly important to inform and improve the field. When applying widely used methods for literature reviews developed for intervention studies onto palliative care, challenges are encountered such as the heterogeneity of palliative care in practice (wide range of domains in patient characteristics, stages of illness and stakeholders), the explorative character of review questions, and the poorly defined keywords and concepts. To overcome the challenges and to provide guidance for researchers to conduct a literature search for a review in palliative care, Palliative cAre Literature rEview iTeraTive mEthod (PALLETE), a pragmatic framework, was developed. We assessed PALETTE with a detailed description. Methods: PALETTE consists of four phases; developing the review question, building the search strategy, validating the search strategy and performing the search. The framework incorporates different information retrieval techniques: contacting experts, pearl growing, citation tracking and Boolean searching in a transparent way to maximize the retrieval of literature relevant to the topic of interest. The different components and techniques are repeated until no new articles are qualified for inclusion. The phases within PALETTE are interconnected by a recurrent process of validation on 'golden bullets' (articles that undoubtedly should be part of the review), citation tracking and concept terminology reflecting the review question. To give insight in the value of PALETTE, we compared PALETTE with the recommended search method for reviews of intervention studies. Results: By using PALETTE on two palliative care literature reviews, we were able to improve our review questions and search strategies. Moreover, in comparison with the recommended search for intervention reviews, the number of articles needed to be screened was decreased whereas more relevant articles were retrieved. Overall, PALETTE helped us in gaining a thorough understanding of the topic of interest and made us confident that the included studies comprehensively represented the topic. Conclusions: PALETTE is a coherent and transparent pragmatic framework to overcome the challenges of performing a literature review in palliative care. The method enables researchers to improve question development and to maximise both sensitivity and precision in their search process.
Original languageEnglish
Article number82
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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