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Smart Searching: How to Conduct an Effective Literature Search: Start Here


As a medical student and future physician, you will be required to make decisions regarding patient care. You will need to consult the medical literature to help you make a decision about the best course of treatment.
This self-directed tutorial will start you on the path to acquiring lifelong learning skills by showing you how to search one of the most authoritative sources of biomedical information, PubMed.
Two different clinical cases will be used throughout this tutorial to teach you how to conduct an effective literature search:

  • We will demonstrate using the case about Harriet
  • You will apply what you learn using the case about Maude

Follow these Steps

Start here:

  1. Watch the Meet Your Library Team video
  2. Watch the video describing the Case about Maude

Within each of the three modules, you MUST complete all the steps.

Module 1: Searching

  1. Read about PICO. learn
  2. Do exercise 1: PICO elements. exercise
  3. Do exercise 2: Formulating a question. exercise
  4. Watch the video about searching PubMed with MeSH. learn
  5. Do exercise 3: Conduct the search yourself using the case about Maude.

Module 2: Finding

  1. Watch the video about refining search results with Filters.
  2. Do exercise 4: Refine your search results

Module 3: Evaluating

  1. Watch the video about peer reviewed journals.
  2. Watch the video about evaluating abstracts.
  3. Review the appraisal checklists.
  4. Do exercise 5: Evaluating abstracts and identifying relevant articles from your search results.

After Completing this Tutorial

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:

  • Formulate an answerable question using the PICO framework.
  • Select appropriate search terms.
  • Conduct the search.
  • Use PubMed tools and features to refine your results.
  • Identify pertinent articles and obtain full text.
  • Evaluate articles for applicability.

Meet Your Library Team

Your Case

This will be your case. Use it throughout this tutorial to apply what you learn.

Maude is 68 years of age and has recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure. She is otherwise healthy and active. You need to decide whether to prescribe her a beta-blocker or an ace-inhibitor.

Icon Legend

These icons will appear throughout the steps of each module in this tutorial:

learn = Instruction: Read or watch a video
exercise = Exercises: Test your knowledge
= Practice: Apply what you learned

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