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Bioinformatics. 2006 Sep 15;22(18):2298-304. Epub 2006 Aug 22.

Text similarity: an alternative way to search MEDLINE.

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University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development, Division for Translational Research 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.



The most widely used literature search techniques, such as those offered by NCBI's PubMed system, require significant effort on the part of the searcher, and inexperienced searchers do not use these systems as effectively as experienced users. Improved literature search engines can save researchers time and effort by making it easier to locate the most important and relevant literature.


We have created and optimized a new, hybrid search system for Medline that takes natural text as input and then delivers results with high precision and recall. The combination of a fast, low-sensitivity weighted keyword-based first pass algorithm to cast a wide net to gather an initial set of literature, followed by a unique sentence-alignment based similarity algorithm to rank order those results was developed that is sensitive, fast and easy to use. Several text similarity search algorithms, both standard and novel, were implemented and tested in order to determine which obtained the best results in information retrieval exercises.


Literature searching algorithms are implemented in a system called eTBLAST, freely accessible over the web at A variety of other derivative systems and visualization tools provides the user with an enhanced experience and additional capabilities.


[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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