Back when I was in college, this was an awful chore. There were no websites and even the college library didn’t have any useful databases. I had to drive out to the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, to search through volumes of its Index Medicus.
Now, however, all you have to do is go to PubMed. PubMed is a service of the National Library of Medicine that includes more than 15 million citations from MEDLINE and other life science journals for biomedical articles back to the 1950s. Most of the citations include abstracts, and often include links to full text articles and other related resources.
MEDLINE is the premier bibliographic database covering about 4,800 biomedical journals published worldwide in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and the preclinical sciences. MEDLINE is an awful acronym for a wonderful resource. It is short for another acronym, MEDlars onLINE. MEDLARS is the National Library of Medicine’s Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System.
PubMed is probably the best of several gateways or front-ends to MEDLINE. As I indicated a few years ago in my review of MEDLINE gateways I thought that Medscape’s gateway was easier to use, but you have to register each time and it lacks some important features that PubMed has, like links to full text articles.
Actually, PubMed is easy enough to use. It’s even easier if you start by looking at its tutorial. I’ve used PubMed for years without studying how. Big mistake. For example, I never realized that if I wanted to search for a specific article that I knew by journal, title, or author all I had to do was go to the “Single Citation Matcher” in the menu at the left of each PubMed page.
If instead you want to find all the research on Anodyne Therapy that I mentioned above, all you need to do is to go to the main PubMed page and type the words “anodyne therapy” (without the quotation marks) in the “for” field and then click “go.” It returns 42 citations.
The little block at the beginning of each citation tells you if there is only a citation – the block is empty – or if there is an abstract – there are three lines in the block – or there is a full text version – the block is full of lines.
For the Anodyne Therapy search, PubMed links only two full text articles (and one of them is in Spanish and requires a registration procedure that I couldn’t figure out). But in most cases the abstract will give you what you want to know.
Still, what if you want the whole article? You have at least three choices:
1. The fastest and most expensive way would be to buy the article through Medscape or another gateway to PubMed. For example, if you want to get the most recent journal article on Anodyne Therapy – the one by Dr. Prendergast – Medscape would fax it to you in one or two days for $66.50 or it would mail it to you in two to five business days for $48.50.