Finding resources: MEDLINE

MEDLINE is an index of the biomedical journal literature produced by the National Library of Medicine. Nearly 5,000 journals are read and their individual articles indexed and added to the MEDLINE database, which contains information about over 12 million journal articles.

MEDLINE is a great resource for medical research because it is authoritative, peer-reviewed, and complete (as much as possible, anyway). MEDLINE is authoritative because it permits you to see who exactly conducted the research, who wrote the results, and even where the research was conducted. The journals included in MEDLINE must target health professionals and researchers as their audience and publish original research.

All research in MEDLINE is peer-reviewed. Peer-reviewers try to make sure that the research was well-designed, that the statistics are accurately represented, and that the research is worthy of being shared, i.e. authoritative.

MEDLINE is also complete. It's not complete in the sense that there is nothing left to add. But, it is complete in the sense that it goes back through the decades so that you can see how research on a topic has progressed.

The information entered for each journal article citation in MEDLINE includes:

  • Article title
  • Author(s)
  • Journal name
  • Volume and issue
  • Year
  • Page numbers
  • An abstract/summary (usually)

Indexers also provide additional information about an article's content by adding check tags, publication types, and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to each record in the database.

Check tags help identify the subjects and language of research studies such as:

  • Age groups (elderly, adult, child, infant, etc.)
  • Human or animal
  • Male or female
  • Language (English or non-English)

Publication types identify the kind of article presented such as:

  • Editorial
  • Letter
  • Clinical trial
  • Practice guideline
  • Review

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) describe the actual content of an article and provide details about the information discussed in the article. Usually 10-12 headings are assigned to each record. For example, an article entitled "Maxillofacial injuries associated with domestic violence" would include the following MeSH terms:

  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Contusions
  • Domestic Violence
  • Facial Injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Maxillofacial Injuries
  • Skull Fractures/etiology
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating
  • Wounds, Penetrating

One of the benefits of using MeSH terms is that when you search using MeSH terms you get all the articles about a topic, regardless of what term the authors used. For example, a search for myocardial infarction (the MeSH term for heart attack) will give you all articles about heart attacks regardless of whether the authors used the term myocardial infarction or heart attack. This is different from internet search engines like Google that only search for the same words.

Access to MEDLINE

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) provides free access to MEDLINE through PubMed. To learn more about PubMed, go to NLM's PubMed tutorial.

NLM also licenses the content of MEDLINE to commercial database vendors. For a fee, these vendors will provide the content of the database through their own interface which may have different search features and capabilities than PubMed. Himmelfarb subscribes to OVID MEDLINE which provides an enhanced search interface.

Some benefits to searching MEDLINE via the Ovid interface are:

  • Graphical interface is easy to navigate.
  • MeSH term mapper helps identify the correct terminology/MeSH.
  • Full-text links.
  • Indication of which journals are available at Himmelfarb Library in print and/or electronically.

To learn more about searching Ovid MEDLINE:

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