From Little Things Big Things Grow: A Collection with Seed Studies for Medical Systematic Review Literature Search

2022 | Proceedings of the 45th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval (SIGIR 2022)
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Medical systematic review query formulation is a highly complex task done by trained information specialists. Complexity comes from the reliance on lengthy Boolean queries, which express a detailed research question. To aid query formulation, information specialists use a set of exemplar documents, called ‘seed studies’, prior to query formulation. Seed studies help verify the effectiveness of a query prior to the full assessment of retrieved studies. Beyond this use of seeds, specific IR methods can exploit seed studies for guiding both automatic query formulation and new retrieval models. One major limitation of work to date is that these methods exploit `pseudo seed studies’ through retrospective use of included studies (i.e., relevance assessments). However, we show pseudo seed studies are not representative of real seed studies used by information specialists. Hence, we provide a test collection with real world seed studies used to assist with the formulation of queries. To support our collection, we provide an analysis, previously not possible, on how seed studies impact retrieval and perform several experiments using seed-study based methods to compare the effectiveness of using seed studies versus pseudo seed studies. We make our test collection and the results of all of our experiments and analysis available at