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Literature Search Basics

Decide where to search


Why do I need to search beyond PubMed?

To ensure that you have comprehensively searched for and found the relevant literature, you must search in more than one database. You will find overlapping literature across databases, however, you will also find unique literature that may be pivotal to your topic. 

Which Databases Should I Search? 

There is no perfect answer to this question, but here are a few things to consider:

  • PubMed is the most searched database in the United States, and is considered an essential source for biomedical and life sciences literature. For any medical topic, PubMed or MEDLINE should be consulted. However, PubMed does not provide all of the medical literature available.
  • MEDLINE contains a subset of the literature in PubMed. MEDLINE literature can be searched in PubMed, but is also available through other platforms depending on your institution. MD Anderson uses the Ovid platform for MEDLINE, but MEDLINE is also available through EBSCO. 
  • Embase
  • Scopus is a large database that includes many European and Asian journal titles not indexed in PubMed. In addition, Scopus offers records from selective books, book chapters, conference proceedings and abstracts.
  • Web of Science is unique because it provides conference proceedings and abstracts as well as journals in the veterinary and social sciences.
  • PsycInfo

The Research Medical Library has categorized our available databases by subject. These databases are accessible for all MD Anderson employees. Please note that the availability of these databases and the full-text literature is depending on your individual institutional subscriptions. 

Other places to search

Beyond database searching, you may need to consider searching for grey literature. Grey literature refers to anything that is unpublished or not formally published.

  • Clinical trial registries
  • Conference abstracts
  • Organizational websites

How do I know if I have searched the right places?

Ask a medical librarian for assistance. They are experts in database searching. Click here to request assistance with your literature search. You can also consult with a mentor who is experienced in literature searching and publishing.