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Strategies for Searching the Literature Using PubMed

Course Number: 682

Searching with PubMed Clinical Queries

Another feature for answering clinical questions for busy professionals and students is PubMed Clinical Queries. Click on the link found on the Homepage under Find (Figure 1). The Clinical Queries feature (Figure 13) provides specialized searches using evidence-based filters to retrieve articles. The built-in evidence-based algorithms streamline the process of searching for clinically relevant articles.

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Figure 13. PubMed Clinical Queries.

Of the options on the Clinical Queries page, our focus is on using the main search box and the Clinical Study Categories. Special algorithms are designed to find relevant evidence under the each Category.  The default category is Therapy, however by clicking on the drop-down menu, other Filters are found, such as Clinical Prediction Guides, Diagnosis, Etiology, and Prognosis (Figure 14). These can be searched with a broad or narrow focus (Figure 15). Broad is the default so by using the drop-down menu  narrow can be selected.

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Figure 14. Clinical Queries Filters.

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Figure 15. Clinical Queries Scopes.

Clinical Queries allows an individual with limited computer searching skills to find high levels of evidence by typing in a main topic or specific terms of interest. Using the same clinical scenario, "tooth erosion OR erosive tooth wear" is typed into the search box (Figure 16a).

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Figure 16a. Clinical Queries Results of Searching for Tooth Erosion OR Erosive Tooth Wear, Broad Scope.

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Figure 16b. Clinical Queries Results of Searching for Tooth Erosion OR Erosive Tooth Wear, Narrow Scope.

By changing the Scope to Narrow, one goes from over 1687 to only 226.

The abstracts found under the Clinical Study Categories use evidence-based search filters to find individual studies in the indicated category. The default settings are ‘Therapy’ under Category and ‘Broad’ under Scope, since the majority of questions asked fall under the category of therapy. The type of studies retrieved for this category and scope are randomized controlled trials. Since there were over a thousand, change the Scope to Narrow (Figure 16b) and this will reduce the number of citations. A Narrow, specific search will return the most relevant citations, although it may miss some.

Although there is no one correct way to conduct a search, how search terms are entered influences the results and the number of steps needed to refine the search.