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MEDLINE (Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval
System Online) is an international literature database of life sciences and biomedical
information. It covers the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary
medicine, and health care. MEDLINE covers much of the literature in biology and biochemistry, and fields with no
direct medical connection, such as molecular evolution. Listing
of an article in MEDLINE does not mean endorsement of that article.
Compiled by the U.S. National
Library of Medicine (NLM), MEDLINE is freely available on the Internet and searchable
via PubMed and NLM's
National Center for Biotechnology Information's Entrez system.
The database contains more than 13 million records from
approximately 4,800 selected publications covering biomedicine and health from 1966 to the
present. The database is freely accessible via the PubMed interface, and new citations are
added Tuesday through Saturday. For citations added during 1995-2003: about 48% are for
cited articles published in the U.S., about 88% are published in English, and about 76%
have English abstracts written by authors of the articles.
MEDLINE uses Medical Subject Headings
(MeSH) for information retrieval. Engines designed to search MEDLINE (such as Entrez) generally use a Boolean
expression combining MeSH terms, words in abstract and title of the article, author
names, date of publication, etc. Entrez allows also to find articles similar
to a given one based on a mathematical scoring system that takes into account the
similarity of word content of the abstracts and titles of two articles.
MEDLINE functions as an important resource for biomedical
researchers and journal
clubs from all over the world. Along with the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE
facilitates evidence-based medicine.
review articles published nowadays build on extensive searches of MEDLINE to identify
articles that might be useful in the review. Many articles mention the terms that have
been used to search MEDLINE, to make the search reproducible for other scientists.
Additionally, MEDLINE influences researchers in their
choice of journals in which to publish. Few researchers today would consider publishing in
a journal not indexed by MEDLINE because then other researchers would not find (and cite)
Inclusion of journals
Approximately 5,000 of the world's leading biomedical
journals are indexed in MEDLINE. Selection is based on the recommendations of a panel, the
Literature Selection Technical Review Committee (LSTRC), based on scientific
policy and scientific quality. New journals are not included immediately.
PubMed's Journals Database  contains
information about each included journal, such as official name abbreviation and URL.
Although it seems simple, searching MEDLINE effectively is
a learned skill. Without some training it is easy to become frustrated by the amount of
articles a simple search turns up. Contrarily, it is difficult to be sure that the search
is comprehensive, even if it has collected thousands of articles.
There are tutorials for instruction on the
PubMed interface to MEDLINE. Unlike Google searching of the Web, PubMed searching of
MEDLINE requires a little investment of time. These tutorials are well worth the time they
take. The Indexers classify all articles according to subject matter using a standardized
vocabulary to describe the subjects - Medical Subject Headings
(MeSH). Using the MeSH database to define
the subject of interest is one of the most useful ways to improve the quality of a search.
Using MeSH terms in conjunction with Limits
(such as publication date or publication type), Qualifiers (such as adverse
effects or prevention and control), and text-word searching is another. Finding one
article on the subject and clicking on the "Related Articles" link to get a
collection of similarly classified articles is a good way to expand a search that yields
few results. In addition to the National Library of Medicine's excellent tutorials, pages from a book
on MEDLINE usage can be browsed at Google Book Search.
- ? Journals Database, MEDLINE.