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Evid Based Med. 2013 Dec;18(6):207-11. doi: 10.1136/eb-2013-101272. Epub 2013 Jun 20.

Comparing data accuracy between structured abstracts and full-text journal articles: implications in their use for informing clinical decisions.

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Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, U.S. National Library of Medicine, , Bethesda, Maryland, USA.



The abstract is the most frequently read section of a research article. The use of 'Consensus Abstracts', a clinician-oriented web application formatted for mobile devices to search MEDLINE/PubMed, for informing clinical decisions was proposed recently; however, inaccuracies between abstracts and the full-text article have been shown. Efforts have been made to improve quality.


We compared data in 60 recent-structured abstracts and full-text articles from six highly read medical journals.


Data inaccuracies were identified and then classified as either clinically significant or not significant. Data inaccuracies were observed in 53.33% of articles ranging from 3.33% to 45% based on the IMRAD format sections. The Results section showed the highest discrepancies (45%) although these were deemed to be mostly not significant clinically except in one. The two most common discrepancies were mismatched numbers or percentages (11.67%) and numerical data or calculations found in structured abstracts but not mentioned in the full text (40%). There was no significant relationship between journals and the presence of discrepancies (Fisher's exact p value =0.3405). Although we found a high percentage of inaccuracy between structured abstracts and full-text articles, these were not significant clinically.


The inaccuracies do not seem to affect the conclusion and interpretation overall. Structured abstracts appear to be informative and may be useful to practitioners as a resource for guiding clinical decisions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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