EMBASE - Coverage, Interfaces, Searchability

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 26 January 2018



  • EMBASE is available via Ovid. (Some Elsevier content can be found in Google scholar, PubMed, Google and Science Direct.
  • The Ovid interface is thought to provide more precise control of field searching, but this is not absolute; some problems arise as Ovid buys content from Elsevier and curates it (sometimes with errors)
  • Embase can also be searched via Elsevier's website, Embase.com
  • embase.com interface is intuitive, and easy-to-use
  • embase records including MEDLINE content are searchable with single queries; de-duplication is thought not to be required
  • you have the option to choose Emtree or MeSH terminology to search; explosion searches retrieve records indexed with the same class, particularly for drugs, diseases and devices
  • updates ensure the database is current; indexing of in-process and pre-publication occur daily; records mean searches are as up-to-date as possible.
  • results are linked to full text (e.g., via OpenURL), subject to availability; citation exports are available in a variety of formats (including RIS).
  • remember: there are differences in search results in searching the same database with different interfaces
  • this may be a result of search functionality and search syntax in each interface; currency of database in different interfaces and content of database in different interfaces
  • there are many more duplicates in OVID than on Embase.com; differences between MEDLINE via OVID and via PubMed are discussed and include ways of searching but content differs as PubMed contains more than MEDLINE with extra content such as PubMedCentral and articles before they receive full MeSH tagging (in-process citations) and books
  • Giustini et al are evaluating the performance of different interfaces when re-running search strategies; replicating recall and precision, unique results and explanations of the differences.


Ovid command language 2012.png

See also Embase Indexing Guide: a comprehensive guide to Embase indexing policy

Embase (also known by its former, pre-online era name, Excerpta Medica) is a key biomedical and pharmacological database with wide coverage of the biomedical literature with 30 million+ records from 8500+ currently published journals. Embase is known as key in primary research database searching in medicine, and an important complement to the Medline database. It is known for its strength in pharmaceutical topics, journals and information, and its European and Asian content. Due to the practice of medicine in Europe and Asia, and its reliance on complementary and alternative practices, Embase is also a key source in that area.

  • Over 1,000,000 citations and abstracts are added to Embase annually
  • 80% of all citations in EMBASE include author-written abstracts
  • The EMTREE thesaurus includes 71,000+ preferred terms (more than 30,000 are drugs and chemicals)
  • 260,000 synonyms (over 172,000 of which are drugs and chemicals)
  • 7,500 explosion terms (that define the hierarchical structure)
  • 78 subheadings (64 drug subheadings and 14 disease subheadings)
  • 14 study types including Randomized Controlled Trial, Systematic Review and Diagnostic Test Accuracy Study
  • Links to over 21,000 CAS registry numbers
  • All MeSH terms are included
  • Drug indexing by trade name, manufacturer name, clinical trials, all new International Non-Proprietary Names (INNs) for drugs registered with the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as all US Adopted Names and NDAs (New Drug Approvals) listed by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA)
  • Trade names belonging to major pharmaceutical companies are also covered.

EMBASE® is available via Ovid and fully-indexed with complete author abstracts twenty days after receipt of content. Some abstracts are available via Scirus and Google scholar. Embase records contain full bibliographic information, controlled terms and codes.


Embase, produced by Elsevier, is a useful biomedical database for topics such as drugs, pharmacology, toxicology, clinical and experimental medicine, health policy and management, public and occupational health, drug dependence and abuse, psychiatry, forensic medicine, and biomedical engineering/instrumentation.

  • What are its strengths? drug research, pharmacology and toxicology; see indexing discussion
  • Embase has stronger psychiatry coverage compared to Medline.
  • 35-50% overlap with Medline, but Embase has a European rather than an American bias.
  • Anglo-centric terms and phrases are more common.
  • Embase includes literature as far back as 1974; updated monthly and searchable on Ovid interface.

Limitations or concerns

  • Some health librarians have discussed over-indexing of citations in Embase, and the resulting increase in recall/sensitivity of searches.
  • Embase increasingly carries out automatic indexing of articles which has a tendency to create too many Emtree terms, and thus retrieval will go up with many false drops.
  • Some librarians search EMTREE terms AND'd with the same FREE TEXT WORDs in TITLE:TI,AB or if retrieval goes up too high, AND the TERM:TI AND TERM:AB AND the EMTREE
  • When articles are off topic, it could be that terms don't appear in the article but rather it's often a drug class that does and thus its narrower terms, even though they are not mentioned in the article and may incorrectly appear in results.
  • This problem is a waste of time having to page thru results irrelevant to the topic.

EMBASE in the systematic review

  • "Search the Cochrane Review Group's Specialized Register (internally, e.g. via the Cochrane Register of Studies, or externally via CENTRAL).
  • Ensure that CENTRAL, MEDLINE (e.g. via PubMed) and Embase, if it is available to either the CRG or the review author, have been searched (either for the review or for the Review Group’s Specialized Register)." http://editorial-unit.cochrane.org/sites/editorial-unit.cochrane.org/files/uploads/MECIR_conduct_standards%202.3%2002122013_0.pdf
  • The wording was chosen carefully to reflect the value of Embase as a source of trials (not in MEDLINE) for inclusion in the systematic review while recognizing that not everyone has access to Embase and not wishing to encourage inappropriate attempts by those without access to Embase at their institutions to try to gain access elsewhere.


See also

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