Mining characteristics of epidemiological studies from medline: A case study in obesity

George Karystianis, Iain Buchan, Goran Nenadic*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Background: The health sciences literature incorporates a relatively large subset of epidemiological studies that focus on population-level findings, including various determinants, outcomes and correlations. Extracting structured information about those characteristics would be useful for more complete understanding of diseases and for meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Results: We present an information extraction approach that enables users to identify key characteristics of epidemiological studies from MEDLINE abstracts. It extracts six types of epidemiological characteristic: design of the study, population that has been studied, exposure, outcome, covariates and effect size. We have developed a generic rule-based approach that has been designed according to semantic patterns observed in text, and tested it in the domain of obesity. Identified exposure, outcome and covariate concepts are clustered into health-related groups of interest. On a manually annotated test corpus of 60 epidemiological abstracts, the system achieved precision, recall and F-score between 79-100%, 80-100% and 82-96% respectively. We report the results of applying the method to a large scale epidemiological corpus related to obesity. Conclusions: The experiments suggest that the proposed approach could identify key epidemiological characteristics associated with a complex clinical problem from related abstracts. When integrated over the literature, the extracted data can be used to provide a more complete picture of epidemiological efforts, and thus support understanding via meta-analysis and systematic reviews.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomedical Semantics
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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