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Getting Started at UCSF Library

This guide will show you the things you need to know to make the most of UCSF Library, whether you are a student, resident, fellow, faculty or staff

PubMed at a Glance

PubMed:

Topic area: Biomedicine.

Use basics:

1. Analyze your question to identify concepts.

2. Begin your search simply. Type in concept words without AND, OR, or other punctuation into the search box.

3. Examine results.

4. If you need to edit the search to improve results look at Advanced Search (link below search box see image to right). History and Search details is at the bottom of the Advanced page (see image below). Open Details by clicking on the chevron (red arrow) to see exactly what PubMed did with the words you typed in. Add Query from Actions (yellow arrow). Edit search query box to improve results. You might add Medical Subject Headings, punctuation, synonyms for each concept to make the search more effective. These more sophisticated steps will be covered in a CLE course (in development as of Feb 2021).

5. PubMed is made of two parts MEDLINE (91%) and not MEDLINE (9%). Not MEDLINE has some of the newest results. MEDLINE has results that have been indexed with subject headings, publication types, human vs. animal, sex, language of article and more. Indexed items are easier to find as you can use all the things listed previously to identify the most relevant results.

Tips & Examples:

Simple keyword search -> multiple sclerosis

Use quotes to force a phrase -> "multiple sclerosis"

Find a word or concept in the title -> "quality of life"[ti]

Find a word or concept in the title or abstract -> neuroimmunology[tiab]

See our article on how to perform an advanced literature search.

Produced by: National Library of Medicine and National Center for Biotechnology Information

Free available to all worldwide

Type: It is a citation abstract database. This means that it does not contain the full text of articles; you have to link to the PDF from PubMed using the UCeLink.

Size: 32 million articles from 5,200 journals as of 12 Jan 2021

History: Began life in 1836 as a few books on a bookshelf as the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, renamed the Army Medical Library in 1922, and finally named the National Library of Medicine in 1956.

Computerized in 1964 as MEDLARS, made online as MEDLINE (a portmanteau of "MEDLARS online" in 1971).

PubMed appeared in 1997 as browsers on personal computers became common.

New PubMed version launched in 2020.

Additional information:

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) are the “controlled vocabulary” for PubMed. Think of a controlled vocabulary as a dictionary or glossary of terms that work well when included in searches. Controlled vocabularies vary by database. Find out more about MeSH.

Find out more:

Conceptualizing and constructing a search.

Make an appointment with a librarian.

Embase at a Glance

Embase:

Topic area: Biomedicine, includes journal articles and adds conference proceedings and other publication types which PubMed does not contain.

Use basics:

1. Analyze your question to identify concepts.

2. Begin your search simply. Type in concept words without AND, OR, or other punctuation into the search box.

3. Examine results.

4. If you need to edit the search to improve results look at Advanced Search (link below search box). History at the bottom of the Advanced page. Open Details to see exactly what PubMed did with the words you typed in. Edit search in Advanced to improve results. You might add Medical Subject Headings, punctuation, synonyms for each concept to make the search more effective.

5. PubMed is made of two parts MEDLINE (91%) and not MEDLINE (9%). Not MEDLINE has some of the newest results. MEDLINE has results that have been indexed with subject headings, publication types, human vs. animal, sex, language of article. Indexed items are easier to find as you can use all the things listed previously to identify the most relevant results.

Produced by: Elsevier

Size: Hard to find this number. The key point is that Embase contains 8-9 million articles that PubMed does not contain. PubMed contains some newer material which Embase does not. Proceedings from selected conferences are also included in Embase. For systematic reviews of biomedical topics Cochrane Collaboration recommends searching PubMed and Embase as a minimum.

Use Basics:

  1. Stay in Quick Search. To use multiple boxes, modify additional boxes to Quick Search.
  2. Start to type in words for your first concept. If you find a match in the drop down list click on it to select. If not keep your own wording. Move to second line labeled Journal, change to quick search and repeat for your second concept. Embase will preview results numbers. 
  3. Run search.
  4. You can edit the search on the results page.
  5. Notice you have many ways to limit results in left column and across the top of the page.

Tips and Examples:

  1. Embase will automatically add its index term (Emtree) to the keyword you type when it creates your search. If you type tylenol into the Quick Search box, you will see that you should use paracetamol. When you run your search, Embase creates a search that looks like this: 'paracetamol'/exp OR paracetamol
  2. Embase combines terms with single quotation marks (all others use double quotes). Example: 'quality of life'.
  3. Once you run a search in Embase, there is an EBM filter located on the top row of drop-down menus. You can filter your search results to RCTs and systematic reviews. This is a quick way to limit your search to evidence-based articles.

Additional information:

  1. Embase uses Emtree like PubMed uses MeSH. Notice  the link at the top of the page, you can look up words here. Emtree is an excellent source for finding additional synonyms for specific concepts. For most Emtree terms, there is an additional list of synonyms at the end of the record. This can be helpful when developing complex systematic review searches.
  2. Embase is very picky about parentheses. If you have a long and complex search, you may need to carefully edit it or you will get an error message.
  3. You cannot limit your search to an exact date instead you may only limit by year.

Find out more:

Embase support hub.

Make an appointment with a librarian.

Web of Science At a Glance

Web of Science:

Topic Area: Science including the social sciences

Use Basics:

  1. Use Basic search interface
  2. Standard use of quotation marks, AND, OR, parentheses.
  3. WoS allows for proximity searching
  4. There is no MeSH or Emtree equivalent

Produced by: Clarivate.

Contents: 55 million entries, includes articles, dissertations, conference proceedings and more.