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How to Search in Biomedical Databases

Tutorials for Library Databases and Resources

I Need Articles On a Topic. Where Do I Start?

Step 1: Define your research question. What do you need to know? Use the PICO (or PP-ICONS) method to help form a clinical question, if applicable.

Step 2: Determine the best resources to address your question. Check the library subject guides for databases in your subject area, or start with a general resource like PubMed.

Step 3: Identify your search keywords and controlled vocabulary subject terms. In the majority of cases, a comprehensive and systematic search of literature databases (PubMed especially) includes both controlled vocabulary and keyword terms (i.e. free text, natural language, and synonyms).

Step 4: Search the database for articles on your topic. Learn more about how to search in several different databases.

Step 5: Analyze the articles found of relevance to your topic, or use the PP-ICONS approach to evaluate the results.

Step 6: Download full-text from the resource using the PDF link or the Find-It button. If your article isn’t available full-text from the database, request the article from interlibrary loan –

Need help refining your search? Email to set up a search consult!