Evaluation of Two Search Methods in PubMed; the regular Search and Search by MeSH terms

Saka, Osman; Gülkesen, Kemal Hakan; Gülden, Birsen; Koçgil, Oya Deniz
December 2005
Acta Informatica Medica;2005, Vol. 13 Issue 4, p180
Academic Journal
PubMed is the most frequently used medical indexing database by health and biological sciences professionals all over the world. MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) is NLM's (National Library of Medicine) controlled vocabulary used for indexing articles for PubMed. The users usually perform a regular PubMed search, but they can also directly use MeSH terms in their search. Searching by MeSH terms may be more efficient than the regular PubMed search. the aim of this study is to compare the regular PubMed search with search by MeSH terms. We searched five subjects using the two methods. The results of each search were evaluated by both qualitative and quantitative methods. results belonging to each subject have been evaluated by five experts to give a satisfaction score and a relevancy score for each method. Mean satisfaction scores that are given by experts were, 3.24 for the regular PubMed search, and 3.72 for the search by MeSH terms. Mean relevancy scores were 3.36 and 4.14 for the regular PubMed and the search by MeSH terms respectively. The quantitative analysis showed that sensitivity was 0.60 in the PubMed search, 0.50 by the MeSH search, whereas precision was 0.70 versus 0.68. The difficulty of designing such a study is clear, and further studies in this domain needs to be performed. A comparison by qualitative and quantitative analyses showed no dramatic difference for the two search methods. These results may be more easily explained for PubMed searches, but one of the main aims of the MeSH system is to prevent the complications of a routine PubMed search. Our expectation was higher sensitivity and precision as a result of the search by MeSH terms. The results suggest that, there is a problem with indexing procedures. authors must find appropriate keywords for their article, try to use standard terms and design their abstracts carefully. Reviewing the indexing process in NLM to see if there is a problem may also be helpful. We think that the quality of MeSH indexing must be improved to provide better functionality.


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