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How to Search in Biomedical Databases

Tutorials for Library Databases and Resources

Sample Search Topic & Objectives for PubMed Demo

Hypothetical scenario for a NEOMED COM/COP student or faculty member: "KR is a 56 y/o female with a history of Myocardial Infarction (MI) who is on Atorvastatin 80 mg daily presents to your clinic. She expresses concern over an internet article she saw that stated statins can cause memory loss. She is concerned that she may be experiencing this effect and wants to stop her statin. She does not need an immediate answer."

The first objective is to locate existing literature using EBM/EBP searching methods to assess the existing research and make an evidence-based decision. A second objective is to determine whether or not this topic could serve as a research project. Searching according to the following steps will ensure that both of these objectives are met.

Overview of Search Steps

  • Steps #2-4 explain how to run a comprehensive search on Atorvastatin.
  • Step #5 explains how to run comprehensive searches for "memory loss" and females. Please note that to save space, the searches for these two concepts are not detailed as extensively as Atorvastatin. Instead, users of this tutorial can accomplish searches for both concepts on their own by following steps #2-4, only with "memory loss" and females in the place of Atorvastatin.
  • Step #6 explains how to combine Atorvastatin with separate searches for "memory loss" and females. 
  • Steps #7-9 explain how to apply filters (also known as limits), access full-text at NEOMED, and export results.

Sample Search Step #1: Identifying Search Concepts Using PICO

Population - 56 year-old female with a history of Myocardial Infarction who is on Atorvastatin 80 mg daily

Intervention - Discontinue use Atorvastatin

Comparison - Continue administering Atorvastatin

Outcome - Answer to her question: do statins cause memory loss, and should she discontinue usage?

Note that in this example it is not necessary to build search concepts for each individual PICO element. A more advisable approach is to consider the most important elements and whether or not multiple elements can be combined into a single concept. In this case, elements I and C can be combined because both concern Atorvastatin. Therefore, our three concepts are Atorvastatin, females/women, and memory loss. Note that I shortened O to "memory loss." This was done to convert it into a single concept; searching for "causes" can be vague, whereas "memory loss" is a medical condition.