Biomedical database now available to Internet users

A database long used by professional scientists is now accessible without charge to the public through the Internet. Called MEDLINE, the database contains bibliographic information, in many cases including abstracts, or summaries, of about 9 million citations of the biomedical literature published since 1966 in biomedical journals. Currently, citations are extracted from about 3,900 journals in the United States and seventy foreign countries.

MEDLINE can be searched using the author's name or keywords. The references containing the selected names or keywords will be listed chronologically on the computer screen, beginning with the most recent. If more details about a particular paper are desired, it can be selected for display, which will give the summary, authors, and journal. For example, one can search the published literature for studies on vitamins and cancer by choosing the keywords "vitamin" and "cancer". More precise searching can be accomplished by using less general keywords, such as "ascorbic" and "lymphoma" (this search returned 46 citations from 1967 to 1997, although no abstracts are available for some of the older citations or foreign language citations). There are also options to view related articles. Although the abstracts may contain highly technical language incomprehensible to the layperson, familiarity with published results may help patients and their physicians make better choices for treatment.

A search of MEDLINE by scientists is routinely done prior to designing experimental studies, since it will allow one to determine if the planned experiments have already been done or what other published studies relate to the proposed investigations. Before the advent of free access to the database in June 1997, its use was limited due to the high subscription costs of commercial providers.

MEDLINE and PREMEDLINE are parts of PubMed, which has been developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The NLM is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). PREMEDLINE is updated daily and contains basic bibliographic information prior to the inclusion of the full record into MEDLINE, which is updated weekly. About 33,000 new citations are added monthly to MEDLINE.

The website for PubMed can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed, which is where the search can be initiated. Information about MEDLINE is posted in the "overview" section. Additional pertinent information about MEDLINE, including facts, statistics, and related databases, is found at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/medline.html.

If you do not have a computer with Internet access, one can be often found at municipal or college libraries, and librarians are knowledgeable about their use.

--Stephen Lawson

Last updated May, 1998


Honoring a Scientific Giant with Research Toward Longer, Better Lives

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