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Beware of word truncation in PubMed: unexpected problems and potential solutions
  1. Rafael Vieira1,
  2. Bernardo Sousa-Pinto2,3,
  3. Luís Figueira4,5
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, University Hospital Center of São João, Porto, Portugal
  2. 2MEDCIDS—Department of Community Medicine, Information and Health Decision Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
  3. 3CINTESIS—Center for Health Technology and Services Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
  4. 4Unit of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Department of Biomedicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal
  5. 5Department of Ophthalmology, University Hospital Center of São João, Porto, Portugal
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rafael Vieira, University Hospital Center of São João, Porto, Portugal; mail{at}rafaelvieira.eu

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PubMed allows truncation of a given term by using an asterisk (*).1 Its purpose is to retrieve the first 600 words containing the part of the word preceding the asterisk, and it is a recommended practice when building the queries to be used in systematic reviews.2 However, unawareness on how truncation is enforced—particularly when searching for expressions with more than one word—can result in obtaining a lower number of results than what would be intuitively expected.

PubMed documentation explicitly states that “truncation bypasses Automatic Term Mapping and automatic explosion”,1 so that a truncated search can return less …

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