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In-Depth Database Tutorial: PubMed

A detailed tutorial explaining how to search in PubMed according to EBM/EBP standards

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

  • PubMed comprises more than 34 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 than any other database when it comes to biomedical topics. In addition, its indexing with MeSH (medical subject headings) allows for controlled and comprehensive searching in a way that other databases cannot accommodate for medical topics.

  • Please note that a 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 or conduct literature reviews.

This content was adapted from “HOW TO SEARCH IN BIOMEDICAL DATABASES” (created in 2021 at NEOMED Library) by Simon Robins, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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