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Literature review & study skills resources for intercalating medical students

Resources for finding information

LaptopThere are many online resources available to help with your research. The databases provided by the Library give you online access to valuable information including full text journal articles and abstracts. You will also find information on this page about finding other types of information, such as grey literature.

You may need to use different resources in your intercalated year than the ones you have been using so far. For example, if you are looking for information about public health, social sciences databases such as ASSIA might be more appropriate than medical databases such as PubMed. The resources you use will depend on the subject you are researching. 

Finding relevant databases

Using the databases provided by the Library will help you find reliable information from trusted sources.

A database may be dedicated to a single subject or cover several subjects. Some publishers also provide databases which allow you to search all their published content from one website.

You can find a variety of information, including:

  • Full text articles from e-journals and other publications
  • Abstracts
  • Citation information
  • Newspaper articles
  • e-books
  • Images

To find out which databases are relevant to your subject, use the Database by subject or refer to your subject guide.

You can see a list of key databases for MedicineBiological SciencesSocial SciencesGlobal Public Health, and others.

If you know which database you want to search, find it on the A-Z list of databases and gain access from there.

You can also use DiscoverEd which enables you to search multiple databases (and ejournals, ejournal articles and the Library's Collections) from a single search box. DiscoverEd can be a good place to start your research.

Some of the key databases for Medicine are:

  • Medline: A key resource covering research, clinical practice, administration, policy and healthcare services.
  • Embase: Covering pharmacology, medicine and biomedical literature this database is an essential resource.
  • Web of Science: With resources from a variety of subjects areas including over 2,500 core medical journals.
  • Scopus: Encompassing health, physical sciences, social sciences and humanities subject areas.
  • Cochrane Library: Contains high-quality evidence to inform healthcare decision-making.

However, this list is just indicative and the best resources to use depends on the subject area you are researching.

Your Academic Support Librarian can advise you on the databases best suited to a research topic as well as on how to get the best out of the databases you want to use.

Literature reviews: which databases to use, and how to find them?

This presentation summarises ways of identifying which literature databases to use for your topic, and how to access databases via the Library subscriptions [5:33]

Getting the full text

When full text is available, your access to it will depend on the details of the Library’s subscription.

Once you have found a reference to an article, look out for links to 'Find it @ Edinburgh''Full text''openurl' or similar. In many cases, these will take you to the full document for viewing or downloading.

Alternatively, check DiscoverEd to find out if we have a subscription to a print version, or ask about requesting items via Interlibrary Loans.

Sometimes you may be asked to pay for access to an article. Always check with the Library before making any payment (particularly if searching off-campus) as you may actually be entitled to free access via the Library's subscriptions.

Found a resource that's unavailable?

Use Inter-Library Loans and Intra-Library Loans to have resources (digital and hardcopies) delivered from other campuses and other libraries around the world.

Can't find a book you need for your studies?
Use the Request a Book service to tell us and we will try and buy it for the library.

Citation searching

'Citation searching' means taking some key papers you have already identified and using them to find other relevant papers. 

There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Look at the reference lists in the papers you have already found to see what studies the authors have referred to
  • Search for the article title on Google Scholar and click 'cited by...' to see papers that have referred to it since it was published.
  • Search for the author to see what else they have published
  • Look up the articles in a database like PubMed to see how it has been indexed - look at the keywords and/or thesaurus terms assigned to the article.

Finding grey literature

What is 'grey literature'?

'Grey literature' refers to literature which may be considered unpublished, or non-standard academic literature, eg theses, technical reports, reports from government or organisations working in your field of interest.

Help searching databases & online resources

Learning a few basic principles will help you find the information you want from the many online resources, ejournals and databases to which the Library provides access.