Medline - Coverage, Interfaces, Searchability

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 4 February 2017

Introduction to MEDLINE


...We’ve gone from 22 users to 601 million and from thousands to billions of searches. Check out what else has changed over the last 45 years.... - NLM in Focus

Medline is a freely-searchable database at PubMed - MEDLINE -, and available by subscription via Ovid MEDLINE and EBSCO. PubMed offers benefits to searchers by providing direct links to citations and including some fulltext links. On PubMed, searching is always free and no registration is required to use the service. PubMed citations may also be found via Google scholar, the free web search tool that searches peer-reviewed online journal publishers' websites and various aggregators. Some PubMed citations link to free open-access articles in PubMed Central® and other sites at the NLM. MedlinePlus provides consumer-oriented health information. Health consumers are encouraged to discuss their search results with health librarians and their health care providers.


2016 baseline statistics here

  • Medline is created by the U.S. National Library of Medicine; OldMedline goes back to ~1946; index medicus goes back to 1879 (see IndexCat - home page)
    • premier bibliographic database in biomedicine containing ~26 million (PubMed 24 million (Medline) + 2 = 26 million) citations
  • Medline is core of PubMed®, part of the Entrez system of databases at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
  • ~2,000 - 4,000 articles are added seven days a week as of 2014; Updates in December are suspended to enable NLM to transition to the new Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

Ovid vs. PubMed

  • Ovid Medline has sophisticated search capabilities such as adjacency searching
  • Ovid Medline allows for much more focused and flexible searching. PubMed phrase searching can be tricky to replicate as in Ovid.
  • Ovid Medline allows for frequency of term searching in the abstract, which can be especially helpful in reducing retrieval in rapid response searches
  • PubMed Medline will do extensive mapping of search terms, depending on how the search is constructed. Users need to play close attention to how the search is being interpreted
  • Because of its mapping, Pubmed searches tend to be broader and produce more irrelevant results. Ovid allows for more precision in general.
  • Searching Ovid for duplicates is possible. This saves time and effort of removing duplicates through bibliographic management software

There is nothing in Ovid MEDLINE that is not also in PubMed. However, 2% of PubMed's records are not yet in Ovid so search both.

Broad subject coverage

  • covers international biomedical, life and basic research sciences
  • behavioural and chemical sciences; bioengineering in health; public health, health policy development and related research as well as biophysics and chemistry; increased indexing in life sciences from 2000.
  • covers research vital to biomedical practitioners, researchers and educators, including biology, environmental science, marine biology, plant and animal science
  • most publications are scholarly or peer-reviewed; some newspapers, magazines and newsletters considered useful are indexed
  • citations added from 1995-2005: 48% are for cited articles published in the U.S., 88% are published in English, and 76% are for English abstracts written by authors of the articles


Standard citation in Medline

  • Look at the indexing of this article:
    • What are the major and minor descriptors?
    • Note, record is from Medline but also Cochrane Library
  • Why is that? Can you find articles similar to this? how?
  • Note, citation format?
  • What does search strategy refer to in the abstract?

Record #1

Ovid command language 2012.png

Douglas et al. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(4):CD000980.

BACKGROUND: The role of oral vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the prevention and treatment of the common cold has been a subject of controversy for at least sixty years. Public interest in the topic continues to be high and vitamin C continues to be widely sold and used as a preventive and therapeutic agent for this common ailment. OBJECTIVES: To discover whether oral vitamin C in doses of 200 mg or more daily, reduces the incidence, duration or severity of the common cold when used either as continuous prophylaxis or after the onset of cold symptoms. SEARCH STRATEGY: This updated review added to earlier searches, a full search of the following electronic databases: the Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library Issue 2, 2004); MEDLINE (January 1966 to June 2004); and EMBASE (1990 to June 2004).

Publication Types:

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH Terms:

  • Administration, Oral
  • Ascorbic Acid/administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid/therapeutic use*
  • Common Cold/drug therapy*
  • Common Cold/prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Tract Infections/drug therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections/prevention & control


  • Ascorbic Acid


Expert search filters

  • any users with personal accounts will see Expert searches created by some librarians after they click View Saved
  • they can be run and applied to searches; most expert searches are methodology filters, but we have one to narrow to Canadian publications, i.e. about Canada, published in a Canadian journal or written by someone affiliated with a Canadian institution
  • about copying saved searches from one Personal Account to another; it can be done at Ovid’s end; or you can re-key or copy/paste search into a new personal account.
  • Ovid needs the capability – as EBSCO has – to allow someone to run saved searches and log off Personal Account without the search being lost so it can be saved under a different Personal Account. If others think this is valuable, they should let their Ovid know either via their rep or at conferences where Ovid exhibits.


IndexCat contains over 4.5 million references to over 3.7 million bibliographic items dating from 1500 to 20th centuries and covering subjects of the basic sciences, scientific research, civilian and military medicine, public health, and hospital administration. A wide range of materials can be discovered through IndexCat, including books, journal articles, dissertations, pamphlets, reports, newspaper clippings, case studies, obituary notices, letters, portraits, as well as rare books and manuscripts. Recently, two new collections, involving medieval scientific English and Latin texts, were made available through IndexCat. Opening a new frontier in historical research, these additional collections encompass over 42,000 records of incipits, or the beginning words of a medieval manuscript or early printed book. IndexCat users can search incipit data by manuscript, library, author/translator, title, subject, date and other information.

The History of Medicine Division of the National Library of Medicine creates the IndexCat database, which is the online version of the Index Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General's Office.


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