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PHM 211--Researching topics in pharmacology and toxicology: Finding Scientific Articles

Databases to Search

PubMed is the main database for health and medical research in the United States. It is a good place to find articles about the impact of drugs and other substances on human beings and animals.  

Web of Science is a database that covers articles in all areas of science, not just biomedical.  It will be useful for finding articles in ecology and environmental studies/remediation/environmental engineering and other fields that are not only health focused. 

Embase is similar to PubMed, but it contains more articles from European researchers and publications. 

Remember to check the date of publication on the articles you're looking at! All of these databases will allow you to sort your results by date, and also to filter them so that you only see review articles (secondary literature). 

Finding Full Text Articles

To get full text: 

  1. In PubMed, click on  icon Spartan block S Full Text button  if it appears.  If it doesn't appear, try the  Find Text at MSU button icon. If you're having trouble, check out this tutorial:  How to find the full text from PubMed  (2 minutes 41 seconds)
  2. In Web of Science, click on the Find Text at MSU button icon.  

Tips on drug searching in PubMed

Drug searching sometimes can be tricky. Here are some steps to follow:

1.  Find out how long your drug has been around.  The Center Watch web site lists when drugs received FDA approval. 

2.  Note down all possible generic and brand names for your drug. You can improve the results of your search by using the word OR to connect synonyms.

Example searches: 

abilify OR aripiprazole ("aripiprazole" is another name for the drug abilify)

3.  Use the word AND to search also for the disease or organ and narrow down your search. If the drug is very new, you may have to search for the disease or organ and the words "drug therapy" or "vaccine" or a similar word.

Example searches:

aripiprazole AND schizophrenia    

cholera AND vaccine  

Health Sciences Librarian

Chana Kraus-Friedberg's picture
Chana Kraus-Friedberg
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing, MI 48824

Primary versus Secondary Literature

Research tip:  Read secondary literature to get background before you get into the primary literature.

Secondary Literature summarizes the findings or conclusions of many different primary literature papers.  Examples include news articles, books, and review articles in scientific journals.

Primary Literature is the first published reports of findings from experiments or studies by the scientists who did the work.  These are scientific articles published in scientific journals and they include the following sections:  introduction, materials & methods, results (with tables of data or graphs or images), and discussion. 

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