Using medline elemental similarity to assist in the article screening process for systematic reviews

Xiaonan Ji, Po Yin Yen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Systematic reviews and their implementation in practice provide high quality evidence for clinical practice but are both time and labor intensive due to the large number of articles. Automatic text classification has proven to be instrumental in identifying relevant articles for systematic reviews. Existing approaches use machine learning model training to generate classification algorithms for the article screening process but have limitations. Objective: We applied a network approach to assist in the article screening process for systematic reviews using predetermined article relationships (similarity). The article similarity metric is calculated using the MEDLINE elements title (TI), abstract (AB), medical subject heading (MH), author (AU), and publication type (PT). We used an article network to illustrate the concept of article relationships. Using the concept, each article can be modeled as a node in the network and the relationship between 2 articles is modeled as an edge connecting them. The purpose of our study was to use the article relationship to facilitate an interactive article recommendation process. Methods: We used 15 completed systematic reviews produced by the Drug Effectiveness Review Project and demonstrated the use of article networks to assist article recommendation. We evaluated the predictive performance of MEDLINE elements and compared our approach with existing machine learning model training approaches. The performance was measured by work saved over sampling at 95% recall (WSS95) and the F-measure (F1). We also used repeated analysis over variance and Hommel's multiple comparison adjustment to demonstrate statistical evidence. Results: We found that although there is no significant difference across elements (except AU), TI and AB have better predictive capability in general. Collaborative elements bring performance improvement in both F1 and WSS95. With our approach, a simple combination of TI+AB+PT could achieve a WSS95 performance of 37%, which is competitive to traditional machine learning model training approaches (23%-41% WSS95). Conclusions: We demonstrated a new approach to assist in labor intensive systematic reviews. Predictive ability of different elements (both single and composited) was explored. Without using model training approaches, we established a generalizable method that can achieve a competitive performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28
JournalJMIR Medical Informatics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2015


  • Automatic document classification
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Relevance feedback
  • Systematic review


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