General Information

There is an enormous amount of information on biomedical research. It is challenging to find the relevant information on a given topic and to collect reliable methods, results and conclusions to better define a specific project.

A systematic and open-ended research can be done in PubMed, libraries and databases, among others. Other sources of information include:

  • Suitable tools, software and algorithms
  • Search histories including terms and keywords used by similar projects before
  • Meta-analysis

Tasks / Actions

Every question requires detailed background knowledge and analysis. This should be balanced and detailed, because later in the publication the introduction and parts of the discussion should refer to it. It is important to find and study solid basic information on the topic. If you are not yet familiar with the topic, review articles are a first starting point. Afterwards, you should study the relevant original papers and review the content with regard to your own question.

A systematic approach is needed to be able to answer each research question in a well-founded and comprehensive way.

  • Make sure that you fully understand at least the basic idea of your project.
  • If you do not understand a part of the project, do not hesitate to ask questions directly. It is better to get an explanation about something than to assume that you know what it means and later find out that the assumption was incorrect.
  • If you don't know much about your topic, look for a resource that provides a general overview. This information is usually freely available through PubMed in the form of reviews or books.
  • The success of your research depends on finding the right keywords.

Even at this early stage, there is a risk of unbalanced research through various forms of bias.

  • Hypothesis bias happens when the hypothesis is already pre-established at the beginning of the research and only literature that supports this hypothesis is considered.
  • Literature bias can happen when only limited access to the primary literature of the subject due to restrictions such as subscription restrictions of the organization central library.

To avoid these bias aspects, it is recommended to read and consider all literature relevant to the topic. If a hypothesis is already given (e.g. by an application), the literature can be divided into hypotheses -proving, refuting and neutral literature, for example. If access to literature is limited, it is helpful to contact the library, search its online catalogue for alternative access to the journal or contact the corresponding author.

With tools such as the CRAAP test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) you can evaluate the quality of the references.

PubMed is the search interface for the MEDLINE database and other resources, making it the world's largest and most important medical bibliographic database. It is produced by the National Library of Medicine (USA) and is accessible free of charge. PubMed documents over 23 million references from the biomedical field, from MEDLINE and from over 5,200 journals and e-books. The NCBI channel on Youtube offers numerous tutorials and webinars on PubMed [1].

PubMedCentral (PMC) is a freely accessible database containing full-text scientific literature from medicine, biology and related fields. PMC was established by the National Library of Medicine (USA) and is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since 2008, it has been a legal requirement in the USA (H.R. 2764) that all research results obtained through funding by the NIH be published in original or copy form at PMC within twelve months [2].

Web of Science (ISI Web of Knowledge) is a paid service with several scientific online citation and literature databases. It was purchased and operated by Thomson Reuters in 1992. In 2016 Clarivate Analytics bought the Intellectual Property and Science business unit with the scientific databases[3] Web of Science is particularly useful for finding out which publications cite a particular article for reference. Access to Web of Science can be found on the database page of the Charité Medical Library. Corresponding training and tutorials can be found here.

Gopubmed is a knowledge-based search tool for biomedical texts. Gene Ontology is used as a "table of contents" to structure the millions of articles in the MEDLINE database. Gopubmed allows to find relevant search results faster [4].

PubChase is a free search and recommendation tool for biomedical literature. Based on the search, and stored search results in the cloud-based PubChase library, suitable publications are recommended via an algorithm.

Sparrho is a non-traditional search engine that uses both expert recommendations and AI algorithms to find relevant and recent publications. It stands out for its Pinterest-like interface.

BfArM provides Information for all areas of health care. It is the publisher of official medical classifications such as ICD-10-GM and OPS (German Procedural Classification) and maintains medical terminologies, thesauri, nomenclatures and catalogues that are important for health telematics and other applications.

  1. ISI Web of knowledge
  2. PubMed Help [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Center for Biotechnology Information (US); 2005-. PubMed Help. [Updated 2018 Mar 28].
  3. McDonagh M, Peterson K, Raina P, et al. Avoiding Bias in Selecting Studies. 2013 Feb 20. In: Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2008.
  4. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Standards for Systematic Reviews of Comparative Effectiveness Research; Eden J, Levit L, Berg A, et al., editors. Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011.
  5. Jonas DE, Wilkins TM, Bangdiwala S, et al. Findings of Bayesian Mixed Treatment Comparison Meta-Analyses: Comparison and Exploration Using Real-World Trial Data and Simulation [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2013 Feb.