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Books, Journals, New Media
February 18, 2004

Reference Software

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(7):887-888. doi:10.1001/jama.291.7.887-b

RefViz is information visualization software; it detects and displays related concepts from a large universe of published scientific literature. Visualization automates the task of reading through massive new text, assimilating its contents, and then manually detecting unifying concepts. The history behind this development requires explanation.

Unsorted tonnage of information can be suffocating. Sifting and analysis are necessary to reduce this cognitive overload. The bioinformatics field came up with data-mining techniques for this purpose. Mining scans published literature, detects repetitively recurring word patterns, and determines their relationships. It then depicts iterative terms and themes in graphic form using trees, clusters, or branching diagrams. Clustering of unique but related text and data ease the tedium of individualized reading and cognitive analysis. One example is the Visual Thesaurus (http://www.visualthesaurus.com/online/index.html).