14. Modern methods of searching the medical literature

B. J. Smith, P. J. Darzins, M. Quinn, R. F. Heller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To review the methods of electronic retrieval of biomedical journal articles; to demonstrate CD-ROM and online searching techniques; and to compare major biomedical databases. Design: A CD-ROM MEDLINE search was made by a medical practitioner, with the assistance of an experienced librarian. An online MEDLlNE/Excerpta Medica search was made by the same medical practitioner after completion of a two-day course in search techniques. The search example covered the period 1983 to 1992, and the topic was 'whether steroid use for asthma/airways disease leads to osteoporosis'. Outcomes: Search duration, article yield and search cost were assessed. Results: The CD-ROM MEDLINE literature search took 60 minutes to find 31 articles (43% of the possible articles). This compared with an online search to the Bibliographic Retrieval Services database in Chicago, which produced the same articles when MEDLINE was searched (but took only 16 minutes) and which also found 47 articles (with an overlap of only seven) when Excerpta Medica was searched. We estimated that the combined MEDLINE and Excerpta Medica search detected 93% of all known relevant articles, based upon an assumed gold standard. Conclusions: Online searching is a fast and powerful alternative to CD-ROM searching. Formal training is necessary for quick and cheap reference finding. Other benefits such as direct transfer from online searching to your own computer bibliography database make online searching of biomedical databases essential to consider.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-611
Number of pages9
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1992
Externally publishedYes

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