New Framework for Automated Article Selection Applied to a Literature Review of Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal

Minh Nguyen Quang, Timothy Rogers, Johannes Hofman, Ana Lanham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)


Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (EBPR) is a technology widely used in wastewater treatment to remove phosphorus (P) and prevent eutrophication. Establishing its operating efficiency and stability is an active research field that has generated almost 3000 publications in the last 40 years. Due to its size, including over 119 review articles, it is an example of a field where it becomes increasingly difficult to manually recognize its key research contributions, especially for non-experts or newcomers. Therefore, this work included two distinct but complementary objectives. First, to assemble for the first time a collection of bibliometric techniques into a framework for automating the article selection process when preparing a literature review (section 2). Second, to demonstrate it by applying it to the field of EBPR, producing a bibliometric analysis and a review of the key findings of EBPR research over time (section 3).

The joint analysis of citation networks, keywords, citation profiles, as well as of specific benchmarks for the identification of highly-cited publications revealed 12 research topics. Their content and evolution could be manually reviewed using a selection of articles consisting of approximately only 5% of the original set of publications. The largest topics addressed the identification of relevant microorganisms, the characterization of their metabolism, including denitrification and the competition between them (Clusters A-D). Emerging and influential topics, as determined by different citation indicators and temporal analysis, were related to volatile fatty acid production, P-recovery from waste activated sludge and aerobic granules for better process efficiency and stability (Clusters F-H).

The framework enabled key contributions in each of the constituent topics to be highlighted in a way that may have otherwise been biased by conventional citation-based ranking. Further, it reduced the need for manual input and a priori expertise compared to a traditional literature review. Hence, in an era of accelerated production of information and publications, this work contributed to the way that we are able to use computer-aided approaches to curate information and manage knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0216126
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2019


  • Bibliographic coupling
  • co-citation analysis
  • bibliometrics
  • cognitive similarity
  • Enhanced biological phosphorus removal
  • EBPR
  • Phosphorus
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Eutrophication


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