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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The structural and content aspects of abstracts versus bodies of full text journal articles are different

K Bretonnel Cohen12*, Helen L Johnson1, Karin Verspoor1, Christophe Roeder1 and Lawrence E Hunter1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology, Center for Computational Pharmacology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado, USA

2 Department of Linguistics, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:492  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-492

Published: 29 September 2010



An increase in work on the full text of journal articles and the growth of PubMedCentral have the opportunity to create a major paradigm shift in how biomedical text mining is done. However, until now there has been no comprehensive characterization of how the bodies of full text journal articles differ from the abstracts that until now have been the subject of most biomedical text mining research.


We examined the structural and linguistic aspects of abstracts and bodies of full text articles, the performance of text mining tools on both, and the distribution of a variety of semantic classes of named entities between them. We found marked structural differences, with longer sentences in the article bodies and much heavier use of parenthesized material in the bodies than in the abstracts. We found content differences with respect to linguistic features. Three out of four of the linguistic features that we examined were statistically significantly differently distributed between the two genres. We also found content differences with respect to the distribution of semantic features. There were significantly different densities per thousand words for three out of four semantic classes, and clear differences in the extent to which they appeared in the two genres. With respect to the performance of text mining tools, we found that a mutation finder performed equally well in both genres, but that a wide variety of gene mention systems performed much worse on article bodies than they did on abstracts. POS tagging was also more accurate in abstracts than in article bodies.


Aspects of structure and content differ markedly between article abstracts and article bodies. A number of these differences may pose problems as the text mining field moves more into the area of processing full-text articles. However, these differences also present a number of opportunities for the extraction of data types, particularly that found in parenthesized text, that is present in article bodies but not in article abstracts.