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Use of controlled vocabularies to improve biomedical information retrieval tasks.

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Division of Medical Information Sciences, University Hospitals of Geneva and University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.


The high heterogeneity of biomedical vocabulary is a major obstacle for information retrieval in large biomedical collections. Therefore, using biomedical controlled vocabularies is crucial for managing these contents. We investigate the impact of query expansion based on controlled vocabularies to improve the effectiveness of two search engines. Our strategy relies on the enrichment of users' queries with additional terms, directly derived from such vocabularies applied to infectious diseases and chemical patents. We observed that query expansion based on pathogen names resulted in improvements of the top-precision of our first search engine, while the normalization of diseases degraded the top-precision. The expansion of chemical entities, which was performed on the second search engine, positively affected the mean average precision. We have shown that query expansion of some types of biomedical entities has a great potential to improve search effectiveness; therefore a fine-tuning of query expansion strategies could help improving the performances of search engines.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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