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Effective Health Care Program

EPC Methods: An Exploration of the Use of Text-Mining Software in Systematic Reviews

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Structured Abstract

Background

This project's goal was to provide a preliminary sketch of the use of text-mining tools as an emerging methodology within a number of systematic review processes. We sought to provide information addressing pressing questions individuals and organizations face when considering utilizing text-mining tools.

Methods

We searched the literature to identify and summarize research on the use of text-mining tools within the systematic review context. We conducted telephone interviews with Key Informants (KIs; n=8) using a semi-structured instrument and subsequent qualitative analysis to explore issues surrounding the implementation and use of text-mining tools. Lastly, we compiled a list of text-mining tools to support systematic review methods and evaluated the tools using an informal descriptive appraisal tool.

Results

The literature review identified 122 articles that met inclusion criteria, including two recent systematic reviews on the use of text-mining tools in the screening and data abstraction steps of systematic reviews. In addition to these two steps, a preliminary exploration of the literature on searching and other less-studied steps are presented. Support for the use of text-mining was strong amongst the KIs overall, though most KIs noted some performance caveats and/or areas in which further research is necessary. We evaluated 111 text-mining tools identified from the literature review and KI interviews.

Conclusions

Text-mining tools are currently being used within several systematic review organizations for a variety of review processes (e.g., searching, screening abstracts), and the published evidence-base is growing fairly rapidly in breadth and levels of evidence. Several outstanding questions remain for future empirical research to address regarding the reliability and validity of using these emerging technologies across a variety of review processes and whether these generalize across the scope of review topics. Guidance on reporting the use of these tools would be useful.