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How to Search in Biomedical Databases

Tutorials for Library Databases and Resources

Overview: why should I use PubMed for EBM/EBP searching?

PubMed comprises more than 30 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. The public database is maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and this tutorial applies to this public-facing version, not the version of Medline supported by Ovid.

PubMed offers a broad overview of existing literature on a particular topic and is arguably more comprehensive when it comes to biomedical topics than any other database. In addition, its indexing with MeSH (medical subject headings) allows for controlled and comprehensive searching in a way that other databases cannot accommodate.

Please note that comprehensive and evidence-based search within PubMed should include both controlled vocabulary (MeSH) and keyword terms (i.e. free text, natural language, and synonyms). The eight steps listed later in this tutorial will detail how to search for both types of terms and combine them into a single search using Boolean Operators. Searching according to these steps will ultimately save you time when trying to locate evidence to answer clinical questions and conduct literature reviews.