A bibliographic database contains citations to (information about) journal articles and other materials (book chapters, dissertations, etc.) that have been published. The most-used bibliographic database in biomedical subject areas is PubMed, which contains more than 35 million citations. A much smaller but more highly-focused bibliographic database is CINAHL (Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature). You may find this Introduction to PubMed video useful.
There are some steps and things to think about that can help you find articles on a topic.
Identify your topic State your topic in one or two sentences, and think about which concepts are the most important (disease or condition, type of therapy) and which are secondary (population specifics, publication years). If you found the perfect article, what would the title be? You can also use the PICO (Patient/Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome) framework to clarify your thoughts.
Select a bibliographic database Usually PubMed or CINAHL, but there are quite a few other resources listed on the A to Z list linked here on the left column.
Check the indexing terms They may be called a thesaurus or a controlled vocabulary or the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) terms in PubMed (MEDLINE). These terms can help you find what you are looking for more easily. In PubMed, click on MeSH database in the lower right column of the front page (scroll down). Use the search box to look for terms that fit the concepts in your topic. There are subheadings that can be used to narrow the focus of your search. For example, the MeSH term Tuberculosis can be narrowed with the subheading drug therapy. In CINAHL, the indexing terms are called "CINAHL Headings". They have subheadings very similar to those in PubMed (MEDLINE).
Do I have to use indexing terms? No. You can go to the search box at the top of the page, or click on Advanced -- a page with multiple search boxes -- and type in any words (often called text words). If you type in dementia AND wandering you will retrieve a large number of relevant items. The Boolean operator AND is used to tell the search engine that all terms combined with AND should appear in each of the articles in the results. The Boolean operator OR is used to tell the search engine that any of the terms combined with OR can appear in articles in the results. More about Boolean operators. For more information about searching with text words, there is a search tips document linked at the top of this page.
Advanced search page/search history In PubMed, the Advanced Search page keeps a search history; it records all the terms you have typed in and the number of results you have retrieved. We recommend that you copy the search history into a Word document and save it. In CINAHL, there is a "search history" link on the search page; click it to see the history. All of our major databases have a search history feature.
How can I get more help with database searching? On the PubMed front page in the left column there are links to more detailed information about searching and many very short video tutorials. In CINAHL, click on Help in the right upper corner. The UAMS Library Education & Research Services (E&RS) Department offers two videos about literature searching in the "Informational Materials" area of our website. For individual assistance, please contact the E&RS at 686-6734 or via email at LibraryReferenceDesk@uams.edu or come in and see us on the first floor of the Library. To schedule a short training session for an individual or small group, you can use an online request form.
Sample PubMed search PICO framework: In patients who have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy in their feet, how does exercise compare with gabapentin in relieving pain? In PubMed find the MeSH term for peripheral neuropathy, which is Peripheral Nervous System Diseases, and select the subheading therapy (this includes all forms of therapy). Click the box next to Restrict to MeSH Major Topic and then "Add to Search Builder" on the right column. Next find the MeSH term Foot and add it to the search builder. Then click on Search PubMed. On the Advanced page, use the number assigned to the search (for example, #4) and type #4 into the search box on that page and then AND (gabapentin OR exercise) -- be sure to use parentheses to keep the OR terms together. The OR was selected instead of AND because an article may have been written about only one of the treatments, but the results (for example, percentage of patients with reduced pain) can be compared with articles about the the other treatment.
#4 Peripheral Nervous System Diseases/therapy[majr] AND Foot[mesh] 315
#5 #4 AND (gabapentin OR exercise) 21
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