MicroPhone scripts for searching MEDLARS

Introduction

Scripts written with Microphone (a communications program for Macintosh and DOS-based computers) can greatly simplify searching the MEDLARS family of databases. (MEDLARS is an acronym for medical literature analysis and retrieval system. It includes the files MEDLINE, its backfiles, HEALTH, et cetera.) This article describes some of the scripts the author has written and explains how they can be used to improve your searching techniques. Although these scripts can not be directly applied to other online services (Dialog or BRS), these scripts give you an idea of what can be done with MicroPhone to improve your searching. You can examine these scripts and modify them to work with other online services. These scripts have been very useful; the author has found himself doing more complete searches with less errors. Appendix A lists source code for scripts you can implement today without any special programming resources.

Most of the scripts graphically implement ELHILL commands. (ELHILL is an acronym derived from the name of Senator Lister Hill. It is system software used to interpret command sent to MEDLARS.) For example, instead of entering "prt ui, ti, ab, so" to print records you simply click a button and press return. Some of the commands include file, print, browse, save, and show cost. Some limiting commands include limiting by Abridged Index Medicus titles, nursing titles, English language, or author abstracts. The neighbor and select commands are implemented so you can intelligently look at the MEDLARS indexes and create sets from chosen terms.

There are a few advanced scripts. For example, there is a script where you can extrapolate a possibly correct medical subject heading (MeSH) from a text word search. Another script allows you to write a search strategy offline and then send the strategy. If the strategy does not work perfectly, then you can edit it and begin again.

These scripts work as a team; the results from one script can be used by another. For example, it is often the case where you will create a set of records and display only the titles. You will then select individual titles from the set and print them. To do this via the command line you would enter a browse command (prt browse), manually record the titles of interest, and enter a print command (prt ui, ti, so, ab) listing the desired record numbers. With these scripts, this same process is reduced to clicking a few buttons.

These scripts are available from the author. They are almost free. Send the author a formatted Macintosh disk and a self addressed stamped disk mailer and he will promptly return your disk with the scripts. These scripts come with no guarantee; they may not work perfectly all the time. Exceedingly limited technical support will be provided. The purpose of their distribution is to demonstrate the possibilities of using MicroPhone to enhance online searching.

The rest of the article describes the scripts.

Basic buttons

The following text describes simple, straight-forward scripts.

icon-01.gif File is a simple way to change databases. Click File and a dialog box appears. (It is also available via command-F.) Choose the database you want to search from the pop-up menu and click OK. This same script could be modified for almost any number of Dialog or BRS databases. See Figure 1.

Figure 1, the File dialog box. Click the File button (or press command-F), choose a file to search from the pop-up menu, and click OK.
Figure 1, the File dialog box. Click the File button (or press command-F), choose a file to search from the pop-up menu, and click OK.

icon-02.gif More sends a "y" in order to continue time intensive processes. Many times while searching MEDLARS you will be accosted by a time overflow message or the like. If you want to continue your search, then you must enter "y". This can be laborious, especially if these messages are frequently repeated. The solution is More. When asked if you want to continue, click More (or press command-M) and the script will continually send a "y" until you get the "/C?:" prompt. If you want to discontinue the process or any other script, then simply click the "stop" button or press command-period. Appendix A lists this script.

icon-03.gif Print gives you the option to print selected fields. Click Print (or press command-P). See Figure 2. The unique identifier number, title, abstract, and source fields are selected by default. Alternatively you can enter the record numbers and selected or deselect any of the options.

Figure 2, the Print dialog box. Click the Print button (or press command-P), enter the record numbers you want to print, choose the fields you want printed, and click OK.
Figure 2, the Print dialog box. Click the Print button (or press command-P), enter the record numbers you want to print, choose the fields you want printed, and click OK.

During the process of printing you may be frequently asked, "CONTINUE PRINTING? (YES/NO)". Simply invoke the More script and the printing will continue until the end.

icon-04.gif Browse allows you to select individual titles from a list for printing. It sends the command "prt browse" to ELHILL and captures the incoming titles. It then displays the captured titles where you can pick them individually. See Figure 3.

Figure 3, the Browse dialog box. Click the Browse button (or press command-B). The titles from your most recent search statement will be captured. Command-click on the titles you want to print and click OK.
Figure 3, the Browse dialog box. Click the Browse button (or press command-B). The titles from your most recent search statement will be captured. Command-click on the titles you want to print and click OK.

Finally, it calls the Print script. Within the Print dialog box the numbers of your selected titles are displayed, and you can print them simply by pressing return. Again, you may have to use the More script to complete the printing.

icon-06.gif icon-07.gif icon-08.gif These three buttons simplify searching multiple databases and backfiles. Save simply sends a "save trash" command. Search sends "trash(sn)". Remove sends "save trash remove". Appendix A lists these scripts.

Script teamwork

Use all the scripts listed above as a team. For example, you can do a complete search in MEDLINE and do the same search in its backfiles simply by clicking buttons. Here's how:

  1. Use the Browse, Print, and More scripts to do a search in MEDLINE.
  2. Click Save.
  3. Change databases with File.
  4. Click Search.
  5. Use More to continue processing, if necessary.
  6. Use Browse and Print to display the results.
  7. Repeat the process on additional databases until adequate results have been
  8. retrieved.
  9. Click Remove.

Consequently you will have done a complete search simply and easily with very little typing. (Granted, you could use ELHILL's multi-file search commands, but how many people have deciphered them? On the other hand, the author's technique erroneously assumes the existence of consistent MeSH headings throughout the MEDLARS databases. The challenging exercise of implementing the multi-file search commands are left up to you.)

Advanced buttons

The following text describes more advanced, intelligent, and difficult-to-implement scripts.

icon-09.gif icon-10.gif icon-11.gif icon-12.gif The AIM, Nursing, English, and Abstract buttons limit a search set by their representative names. For example, click AIM, the command "disp" will be sent and the results captured. See Figure 4. Select the set you want to limit and it will be limited by "and a(sb)". The other buttons work the same way except they limit the sets by "and n(sb)", "and not for(la)", and "and author(aa)", respectively.

Figure 4, a Limit dialog box. Click a limit button and the command "disp" will be sent. Choose a set and it will be limited by the characteristic represented by the clicked limit button.
Figure 4, a Limit dialog box. Click a limit button and the command "disp" will be sent. Choose a set and it will be limited by the characteristic represented by the clicked limit button.

icon-13.gif Journal allows you to limit a search set by a particular journal title. Click Journal and the results of a disp command will be captured just like the buttons described above. You then have the opportunity to choose a journal title from another dialog. See Figure 5. (A complete set of the Abridged Index Medicus titles are provided. If your journal is not listed, then you are prompted for its title and journal code.) The script then sends your formatted command. For example "1 and 3EY(JC)".

Figure 5, the Limit By Journal dialog box. Click Journal and wait for the results of the disp command to be captured. Wait. Select a journal title to use as a limitation, and the correct command will be sent.
Figure 5, the Limit By Journal dialog box. Click Journal and wait for the results of the disp command to be captured. Wait. Select a journal title to use as a limitation, and the correct command will be sent.

icon-14.gif SHeading works exactly like Journal except you choose from a list of subheadings instead of journal titles. See Figure 6.

Figure 6, the Limit By Subheading dialog box. Click a limit button, the disp command will be sent, and the results will be captured. Wait. Select the subheading you want to limit by and click OK.
Figure 6, the Limit By Subheading dialog box. Click a limit button, the disp command will be sent, and the results will be captured. Wait. Select the subheading you want to limit by and click OK.

icon-15.gif The Neighbor script combines ELHILL's neighbor and select commands. Click Neighbor and you are prompted for a term to neighbor. (Alternatively you can preselect a term from the window and it is inserted automatically.) You then tell the script what type of neighbor'ing you want (ie., detailed, what element, and how many terms). The command is formatted and sent. The results are captured and you are asked if you want to navigate up or down the neighbor list. Continue until you have retrieved enough terms. Each of the neighbor'ed terms will be displayed and you are given the option to select them. Click the terms you want to select and the script will send your formatted select command. See Figures 7, 8, and 9. Thus you will have created a set of hand chosen terms just by pointing and clicking.

Figure 7
Figure 7
Figure 8
Figure 8
Figure 9
Figure 9

Figures 7, 8, and 9, the Neighbor and Select dialog boxes. Click the Neighbor button and enter a term. (If you preselect a term, then the preselection will be automatically entered.) Choose the type of neighbor'ing and the elements you want neighbored. Click Neighbor. The index will begin to be displayed and captured. When asked, select the direction and number of terms you want displayed. If you do not want any more terms displayed, then click Select. From the Select dialog box command-click on terms you want selected and click OK. Your chosen terms will be formatted into a select command, sent to ELHILL, and a new set will be created.

icon-13.gif One of the most powerful (and time consuming) scripts is the "Induction" script. Induction allows you to infer a MeSH term from a text word search. For example, suppose you were doing a search for articles on "shared governance". There is no MeSH heading for this concept. So you do a text word search and retrieve a few records. Display the MeSH headings of a few relevant records in a non-compressed format (prt mh). Select all the MeSH headings and invoke the Induction script. See Figure 10. After analysis, you will get a report similar to the contents of Appendix B. You can eliminate the subheadings and asterisks to get a more detailed report. From this example you can assume MeSH headings like "Nursing Service, Hospital", "Nursing Staff, Hospital" and "Decision Making, Organizational" would be useful terms to increase retrieval.

Figure 10, the Induction dialog box. Display the MeSH headings in a non-compressed format from a few relevant citations. Select the MeSH headings and click Infer. If you deselect the "No asterisks" and/or "No subheadings", then your report will be longer but more detailed. Click OK.
Figure 10, the Induction dialog box. Display the MeSH headings in a non-compressed format from a few relevant citations. Select the MeSH headings and click Infer. If you deselect the "No asterisks" and/or "No subheadings", then your report will be longer but more detailed. Click OK.

Miscellaneous buttons

icon-17.gif Costs sends one of the six possible variations of the show cost command. The Costs button allows you to choose which variation you want to use and sends it. See Figure 11.

Figure 11, the Costs dialog box. Click the Costs button, select the type of show cost command you want, and click OK. Your costs will be displayed.
Figure 11, the Costs dialog box. Click the Costs button, select the type of show cost command you want, and click OK. Your costs will be displayed.

icon-18.gif icon-19.gif Edit and Send allow you to create a search strategy offline and send it later. Click Edit and Figure 12 appears. Enter your search strategy and use the dialog's close box to save your search. (Do not use the dialog's Save button.)

Figure 12, the Edit dialog box. Click Edit and enter a search strategy. Use the dialog's close box (the square in the upper left corner) to save the strategy. Log on to ELHILL and click Send. Your strategy will be sent.
Figure 12, the Edit dialog box. Click Edit and enter a search strategy. Use the dialog's close box (the square in the upper left corner) to save the strategy. Log on to ELHILL and click Send. Your strategy will be sent.

Log on to ELHILL, click the Send button, and your previously saved search strategy will be sent. Notice the button uses the More script to continue processing.

Alternatively, send your search strategy and if it does not work, then you can edit it and try again.

Summary

This article has illustrated how you can use MicroPhone to graphically implement some of the ELHILL commands to search the MEDLARS family of databases. It is not too difficult. There is no doubt MicroPhone is more expensive than other communications programs, but it is a one time cost. Think of the time, energy, frustration, and not to mention dollars you will save by accurately searching with these scripts. The money saved by using the basic buttons (or the scripts you create) will recoup your costs in a year. Hopefully this article has peaked your curiosity and you will begin scripting on your own.

These scripts are just the beginning. Since MicroPhone can read and interpret text files, it is very possible to intelligently create search strategies offline, send them, download the results, and log off. The key word here is "intelligently". A program could be written that asked the client questions about their information need. Based on the answers to these questions a search strategy would be written and sent. After the results have been retrieved and before logging off, the system would ask the client more questions and suggest methods of improving recall and precision. Furthermore, the downloaded results could be put into a filter and post-processed. In other words, the step towards making these scripts an expert system is not very large. (The author has created a prototype system that does just that called "AskEric III". Currently it retrieves known citations and abstracts of books, audiovisuals, authors, and journal articles.)

Lastly, these scripts have given you a taste of what can be done with MicroPhone. Even if you do not search the MEDLARS family of databases on the ELHILL system, MicroPhone is an excellent tool for your Dialog and BRS searching needs. The same scripting principles that apply to ELHILL can be applied to Dialog and BRS.

The author

Eric Lease Morgan is currently a systems librarian at North Carolina State University, and he really likes his job. He wrote these scripts while employed as a medical librarian at the Catawba-Wateree AHEC in Lancaster, South Carolina. His other interests include roses, origami, and Renaissance music.

Communications to the author should be addressed to Eric Lease Morgan, Library Systems, Box 7111 Room 2111, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7111; 919/515-6182, eric_morgan@ncsu.edu: Internet.

Appendix A: Some of the scripts

These four scripts (More, Save, Search, and Remove) are simple scripts you can implement now. Please refer to MicroPhone's documentation for instructions on how to input these scripts into your own MicroPhone files.


Settings File = MEDLINE
 Script Name = More
 Command Key = M
 F-Key = 5
 Menu = NO
 Button = NO
 Version = 3007
 System = Macintosh

1   Send Text String "'y^M'"
2   Repeat
3    When Line Contains "'(YES/NO)'"
4     Send Text String "'y^M'"
5    Or When Line Contains "'QUAL; CONT? (Y/N)'"
6     Send Text String "'y^M'"
7    Or When Line Contains "'CONT? (Y/N)'"
8     Send Text String "'y^M'"
9    Or When Line Contains "'/C?'"
10   End When
11  Until Line Contains "'/C?'"


 Settings File = MEDLINE
 Script Name = SaveTrash[sn]
 Command Key = 
 F-Key = 
 Menu = NO
 Button = NO
 Version = 3007
 System = Macintosh

1   Send Text String "'save trash^M'"
2   Remove Button "'SaveTrash[sn]'"
3   Install Button "'Search'"
4   Install Button "'SaveTrash[sn]Remove'"


 Settings File = MEDLINE
 Script Name = Search
 Command Key = S
 F-Key = 
 Menu = NO
 Button = NO
 Version = 3007
 System = Macintosh

1   Send Text String "'trash(sn)^M'"


 Settings File = MEDLINE
 Script Name = SaveTrash[sn]Remove
 Command Key = 
 F-Key = 
 Menu = NO
 Button = NO
 Version = 3007
 System = Macintosh

1   Send Text String "'save trash remove^M'"
2   Remove Button "'SaveTrash[sn]Remove'"
3   Remove Button "'Search'"
4   Install Button "'SaveTrash[sn]'"

 
		

Appendix B: A partial report from the Induction script.

This is an Induction report from a text word search for "shared governance". It is evident from the report "Nursing Service, Hospital", "Nursing Staff, Hospital", "Decision Making, Organizational", and "Personnel Management" would be reasonably good terms use to increase retrieval.

The first column lists a percentage of the number of times the corresponding MeSH heading appeared in relation to the number of records selected. For example, the MeSH heading "Human" was in 90% of the records. The second column lists the number of times the MeSH heading was listed. The third column lists the MeSH heading.


	5%	1	HOSPITAL ADMINISTRATION
	90%	18	HUMAN
	25%	5	NURSING SERVICE, HOSPITAL
	25%	5	ORGANIZATIONAL INNOVATION
	5%	1	ORGANIZATIONAL POLICY
	15%	3	ROLE
	10%	2	SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
	55%	11	DECISION MAKING, ORGANIZATIONAL
	5%	1	NEW JERSEY
	25%	5	NURSE ADMINISTRATORS
	60%	12	NURSING STAFF, HOSPITAL
	5%	1	FLUID THERAPY
	10%	2	PROFESSIONAL STAFF COMMITTEES
	5%	1	DECISION TREES
	30	6	MANAGEMENT QUALITY CIRCLES
	20%	4	NURSING CARE
	10%	2	PILOT PROJECTS
	10%	2	NURSING STAFF
	5%	1	TIME FACTORS
	5%	1	OPERATING ROOMS
	10%	2	UNITED STATES
	5%	1	HEALTH FACILITIES
	5%	1	PROGRAM EVALUATION
	10%	2	ADMINISTRATIVE PERSONNEL
	5% 	1	LABOR UNIONS
	5% 	1	ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
	15% 	3	CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS
	20%	4	NURSING, SUPERVISORY
	15%	3	JOB SATISFACTION
	5%	1	NURSING ADMINISTRATION RESEARCH
	10%	2	POWER (PSYCHOLOGY)
	5%	1	DELIVERY ROOMS
	5%	1	HOSPITAL UNITS
	5%	1	INTENSIVE CARE UNITS
	5%	1	ADULT
	10%	2	ATTITUDE OF HEALTH PERSONNEL
	5%	1	COLORADO
	5%	1	MIDDLE AGE
	25%	5	PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
	10%	2	DECISION MAKING
	5%	1	WISCONSIN
	5%	1	HOSPITAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS
	5%	1	GEORGIA
	10%	2	MODELS, PSYCHOLOGICAL
	5%	1	MOTIVATION

 
		

Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <eric_morgan@infomotions.com>
Source: Originally published as Easy Searching: MicroPhone Scripts for Searching the MEDLARS Family of Databases, Online 16(2):65-69, March 1992.
Date created: 1992-03-21
Date updated: 2004-12-11
Subject(s): articles; computer programs and scripts; MicroPhone; MEDLARS;
URL: http://infomotions.com/musings/medlars-scripts/