NN/LM PNR SUPPLEMENT: PubMed Training Tips
nnlm at u.washington.edu
Tue Oct 27 15:37:02 PST 1998
by Nancy Putnam, NN/LM NER
(reprinted with permission from NN/LM NER's New England Sounding Line,
Vol. 8, No. 2)
It's that time of year again. Students are coming back, vacations are
over, and research is in full force. It's the perfect time to hold PubMed
training classes for your staff, faculty, and students. Here is a handy
tip sheet on points to cover.
* Authority: Created by National Center for Biotechnology Information
(NCBI) located at NLM which is part of the National Institutes of Health
in Bethesda, Maryland.
* Compared to other free MEDLINE services, PubMed and IGM are more current
because NLM is the owner of MEDLINE and they put citations into PubMed as
soon as they receive them while others have to wait for them to be
indexed, saved to disk, and shipped out. It is also the most complete,
since others can choose to allow access to subsets of MEDLINE. PubMed
always gives access to the entire database.
* Index Medicus, International Index to Nursing Journals, Index to Dental
* Coverage: medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health
care system and preclinical sciences.
* Bibliographic Citations and author abstracts when available from over
4000 biomedical journals published in the US and 70 foreign countries.
* 9 million records dating from 1966 to present, updated weekly.
* Show the URL and explain that this is the homepage that PubMed will
always open to. It is also the basic search mode screen.
* Explain that all the features of PubMed can be located in the gray
sidebar located on the left side of the screen.
* Explain uses of overview, help, new/noteworthy, and clinical alerts --
skip the middle section and show the links to NLM, NCBI, and NIH. You can
explain that NIH has good consumer information so if a physician needed to
refer a patient they may want to suggest NIH's homepage to use first
rather than the more technical PubMed articles.
* Search Term: Use at least two words, preferably at least one, two-word
phrase and one term that will map to a different MeSH term. This will
demonstrate both the phrase index feature as well as the mapping feature.
Trainers often use "vitamin c common cold" as terms because they exhibit
all the desired features.
* Note: When discussing MeSH, explain that it is a controlled vocabulary
or a set of terms by which each article is indexed. Tell them that using
MeSH terms will give you a more precise search because you will not
retrieve articles that only briefly mention the term as a keyword search
would. Therefore if an article is about vitamin c, the indexed term or
synonym would be ascorbic acid. End by mentioning that with PubMed, you
don't have to know what the indexed words are because it will usually map
to the appropriate MeSH term for you.
* Type your chosen phrase into the text box and click on search.
* Very Important Section: Take your time explaining it because it will
save you time in the long run. Begin with the details button to
demonstrate the way the phrase index and mapping worked. Tell them this is
where the computer interprets your search, and it is a good place to go if
you are not retrieving the results that you expected.
* Locate number of retrievals.
* Three ways to display articles:
1. Immediately clicking on display will display the entire page
worth of articles in the long format (at this point explain the difference
between the long and short format and discuss elements of each. Explain
PMID vs UI).
2. Displaying selected articles
3. Displaying individual articles
4. Repeat the three ways to display articles
* Three formats
1. Abstract as default
2. Citation, useful to see how the articles were indexed for
possible modification of query.
3. MEDLINE used for reference manager programs and state if they
don't know what a reference manager program is then they don't need to
know. It is good however to show them what search fields are as a prelude
to the advanced mode.
4. Repeat the three formats and their qualities
* Demonstrate printing, saving, ordering (give them your LIBID to sign up
for Loansome Doc if desired), going to the next page, how to change docs
per page and why you would want to do so, explain entrez date vs. pub
date. Show them the link back to the homepage in the titlebar and the
* See related articles: Explain how this is great if you are not finding
what you want, but that articles are arranged in relevancy order rather
than reverse chronological order as all the others are and that the
results are not modifiable.
* Demonstrate an author search and show them where they can locate the
proper format if forgotten.
* Search Fields: Show in pull down menu and explain the usefulness of
searching with fields. Using language as an example explain if you search
English in all fields you may find articles written in a different
language but that have the word English somewhere in the article.
* Search Terms: Begin with two terms that you can OR together that will
yield a substantial number of hits. Then use the add terms to query to AND
a term and continue to use this feature with different search fields to
limit the query even more.
* Retrieving citations: same result screen as basic mode.
* List terms Mode: useful for unknown spellings.
* Assess participants: Are they still alert? Have they been asking
thoughtful questions demonstrating an understanding of the system (show
browser) or repetitive questions demonstrating discomfort with the
material (skip browser)?
* Search term: Use a term that does not automatically map but gives a list
of terms to choose from. Example: exertional asthma.
* Detailed display: Explain subheadings and major topic heading, not too
much detail about the trees and explosion.
* Remember: Once you leave the MeSH browser you can not go back during the
* Explain filters and stress limited results not everything on a subject.
* Show table
* Define sensitivity and specificity
* Run a search (using the same search terms as in the basic mode
demonstrates the difference in number of retrieval.)
* Demonstrate how to find out if a journal is indexed in PubMed with or
without the full title.
* Demonstrate how to find journal abbreviations from title words or find
full titles from abbreviations.
* Demonstrate how to locate "table of contents" (most recently indexed
articles) for a given journal.
* Fill in some of the blanks.
If you want to cover everything in this hand out, put aside about 2 hours
of class time, or if you speak quickly, 1.5 hours. If you have only a
limited time, one hour or less, decide whether you want to demonstrate the
basic or advanced mode and then just stick with a detailed explanation of
how to manipulate the results. Please contact your RML if you have any
other questions about training users to search PubMed.
The Supplement is the newsletter of the National Network of Libraries of
Medicine, Pacific Northwest Region. Produced by NN/LM PNR, under NLM
Contract N01-LM-6-3520. Nancy Press, Editor, pressno at u.washington.edu.
Michael Boer, Publication Manager, boerm at u.washington.edu. The Supplement
is transmitted by e-mail via HLIB-NW and PNRNews.
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