Guide: Literature Searches

I was asked to do a post on literature searches, and since I’m always harping on the importance of keeping up with the science, I think it’s a good idea. There are many ways to access current literature, so I’ll outline a few here. But before we get to where, let’s take a minute to look at how.

There are several good overviews on lit searches out there and some are even interactive:

Where you choose to search depends in part on what you’re looking for. My go-to site is PubMed. PubMed provides access to citations from MEDLINE and additional life science journals. To learn about the myriad ways to use PubMed, consider completing the tutorial or check out one of the quick tours, which will give you a better understanding of the scope of the site. You can also click here for an alternative interface.

Google Scholar is another site that can provide a host of information. Not only will it take you to article abstracts– in the search results you also have the option of seeing who has cited this particular article or book; related articles; web searching based on the key words of the particular citation; library searches and more. It’s great if you are looking for a topic that extends beyond the healthcare literature.

If you are part of a university or hospital system, you may also have access to a few other fee-based sites, including CINAHL, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (tutorials can be found here), and LexisNexis, a great source for legal info. If you’re not sure what’s available in your institution, contact your medical library and ask how to access the online tools. You might be surprised to discover you have more at your disposal than you thought, including full-text articles.

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