MEDLINE-Related Resources

MEDLINE from the National Library of Medicine (NLM)

Other Interfaces to MEDLINE

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

MEDLINE Tutorials

In-Process Citations in PubMed

Journals on the Web

NLM Resources

Health Information on the Web

This page is based on an appendix from Katcher BS. MEDLINE: a guide to effective searching in PubMed and other interfaces. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Ashbury Press; 2006.





Health Information on the Web

There's a tremendous amount of health information on the Web, but most of it suffers from two basic problems:

1. It varies widely in quality. When you find a new site, look to see who sponsors it, and determine its intended audience. Is it current? What is its evidence base? The Medical Library Association has a similar list of questions on its site. MedlinePlus has a useful page of links, entitled Evaluating Health Information.

2. Unlike MEDLINE and other structured databases, most of the Web is completely unorganized. Search engines look at all the words on a Web page, as well as the links to and from the Web page (and, in some cases, additional criteria) for determining its ranking in response to a query. The ranking of "hits" from a search may or may not be suitable to your needs. Sometimes it's helpful to start elsewhere than Google.

Here is a sampling of useful places to go:

Interesting Search Tools

Google Scholar. In addition to its well-known main search page, Google offers a variety of specialized search pages. Google Scholar uses Google's search algorithm, but its results are limited to articles and books of scholarly interest. According to Google, you can use it "to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web." You can set Scholar's Preferences to show links within your affiliated medical library.

Searches for health information in Scholar will often point to PubMed abstracts. When you find useful articles in Scholar, determine how they were indexed for PubMed (MeSH terms), and do another search in PubMed using these terms. Why? Because of the way that Scholar ranks hits, it is likely to miss the latest papers, and -- more importantly -- it lacks PubMed's ability to conduct Boolean searches based on the concepts that are represented by MeSH terms. You can see the MeSH terms for an article by displaying it in the "citation" format.

Google Scholar, still in beta at this writing, is attracting a lot of attention from medical librarians (see Banks 2005 and Henderson 2005).

Scirus. Scirus limits its results to scientific information. Its default mode searches both journals and the web, and its results page provides a link to each search. Less well known than Google Scholar, this is a powerful tool. Highly recommended.

OAIster (find the pearls...). OAIster is the University of Michigan Digital Library's attempt at creating a collection of freely available, previously difficult-to-access, academically-oriented digital resources.

Practice Guidelines

Of course you can search for specific practice guidelines within MEDLINE/PubMed by limiting your search to Publication Type "Practice Guideline" and following the links, but there are other resources for practice guidelines:

The National Guideline Clearing House is the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) public archive for evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. AHRQ guidelines can also be accessed from HSTAT (Health Services/Technology Assessment Text), which is an electronic book on the National Center for Biotechnology Information's Bookshelf. These are all free full text resources.

Evidence Based Medicine

Some evidence based medicine resources require a subscription, but here is a sampling of free resources:

Consumer Sites

These sites are also useful for health professionals. The Medical Library Association (MLA) has produced a User's Guide to Finding and Evaluating Health Information on the Web, which includes a list of their "top ten" most useful consumer web sites. My own favorite is MedlinePlus, which has links to carefully vetted health topic pages, a serviceable medical dictionary, links to patient drug information sheets, and links to all the current health news, in reverse chronological order (organized by day). Health-related stories are a staple of the media, and we often are questioned about them. This is a good way to find enough information to locate the study itself.


Librarians are experts in the organization of intellectual resources (historically, this has been books), so it is not surprising that medical librarians have made significant attempts at organizing medical information on the Web. Here is a sampling:

  • The Recommended Core Collection of Web Sites for Hospital Libraries, created by the Camden Campus Library of the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, is another useful list of links.
  • Hardin MD is a directory of directories, organized by topic areas. Links to more links. Compiled by Eric Rumsey at the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences at the University of Iowa -- a very rich site.
  • The National Library of Medicine (NLM) - see NLM Resources on this Web site.

Academic medical center libraries subscribe to a variety of Web-based resources that can be accessed from the library (or remotely by affiliates of the library). A sampling:

  • EMBASE - a bibliographic database with a somewhat different scope than MEDLINE. Offers extensive coverage of the drug and biomedical literature.
  • Web of Science - A bibliographic database with excellent search capabilities for cited reference searching.
  • Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews - Evidence-based reviews of the clinical literature. (Abstracts of the Cochrane Reviews are free-of-charge).
  • Drug Information Fulltext - Full text access to American Hospital Formulary Service Drug Information.
  • Harrison's Online - Full text access to Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine.

Librarians themselves are the best resource; visit your library.

U.S. Government

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the premier institution for biomedical research. As you might expect, its Web site is huge. Each of its many institutes and centers has its own Web site. (The National Library of Medicine (NLM), which produces MEDLINE/PubMed, is part of NIH.)

The Department of Health and Human Services is the overall government agency for health. Its Web site is designed for the general public. However, it also contains links to the various NIH institutes and centers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and other U.S. Government health agency Web sites.

The U.S. Government's role in biomedical research, public health, and health care delivery has been the subject of a great deal of literature, and it is all well indexed in MEDLINE. There are MeSH for each of the above-named agencies. To use these in your MEDLINE searches, go to the Entrez MeSH Database and take a look. Here is a link to United States Dept. of Health and Human Services within the MeSH Database.

Public Health Sites

If you are working in public health, take advantage of Partners in Information Access for the Public Health workforce.

Other useful public health sites:

Professional Associations

A great deal of highly specialized health-related information on the Web is managed by specific professional associations. Become a member of the organizations that represent what you do.


Google's wonderfully spare search page provides a link to Google Image Search, where you can find images to spruce up your presentations. Less well known but more powerful for serious educational purposes is HEAL (Health Education Assets Library). HEAL describes itself as "a digital library that provides freely accessible digital teaching resources of the highest quality that meet the needs of today's health sciences educators and learners." HEAL is peer reviewed, and its images are organized by MeSH. The CDC maintains a Public Health Image Library. The National Library of Medicine maintains Images from the History of Medicine.

Updated August 28, 2011

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