Information needs in clinical practice take the form of specific questions about a given clinical situation, and are best satisfied by concise and specific information retrieval. We sought to develop a comprehensive set of generic queries for information retrieval from electronic medical information resources. We collected one hundred and ten real-world questions asked at the point of care in a variety of settings, and from these developed a set of generic queries of which each of the real-world queries could be shown to be a special case. To provide allowed values for each of the concept terms in the queries, we defined generic nouns as unions of UMLS semantic types, and specified which of these were appropriate to each query. We have begun to use the set to index reference texts from general and subspecialty medicine, and found it capable of full text indexing in the clinical domain. We hypothesize that the query set can serve as a basis for more specialized query sets, and that it will remain generalizable to other electronic medical resources, indexing tasks, and non- UMLS controlled vocabularies.
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