Boolean versus ranked querying for biomedical systematic reviews

Karimi, S, Pohl, S, Scholer, F, Cavedon, L and Zobel, J 2010, 'Boolean versus ranked querying for biomedical systematic reviews', B M C Medical Informatics and Decision Making, vol. 10, no. 58, pp. 1-20.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Boolean versus ranked querying for biomedical systematic reviews
Author(s) Karimi, S
Pohl, S
Scholer, F
Cavedon, L
Zobel, J
Year 2010
Journal name B M C Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Volume number 10
Issue number 58
Start page 1
End page 20
Total pages 20
Publisher BioMed Central Ltd.
Abstract Background: The process of constructing a systematic review, a document that compiles the published evidence pertaining to a specified medical topic, is intensely time-consuming, often taking a team of researchers over a year, with the identification of relevant published research comprising a substantial portion of the effort. The standard paradigm for this information-seeking task is to use Boolean search; however, this leaves the user(s) the requirement of examining every returned result. Further, our experience is that effective Boolean queries for this specific task are extremely difficult to formulate and typically require multiple iterations of refinement before being finalized. Methods: We explore the effectiveness of using ranked retrieval as compared to Boolean querying for the purpose of constructing a systematic review. We conduct a series of experiments involving ranked retrieval, using queries defined methodologically, in an effort to understand the practicalities of incorporating ranked retrieval into the systematic search task. Results: Our results show that ranked retrieval by itself is not viable for this search task requiring high recall. However, we describe a refinement of the standard Boolean search process and show that ranking within a Boolean result set can improve the overall search performance by providing early indication of the quality of the results, thereby speeding up the iterative query-refinement process. Conclusions: Outcomes of experiments suggest that an interactive query-development process using a hybrid ranked and Boolean retrieval system has the potential for significant time-savings over the current search process in the systematic reviewing.
Subject Information Retrieval and Web Search
DOI - identifier 10.1186/1472-6947-10-58
Copyright notice © 2010 Karimi et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
ISSN 1472-6947
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