How to Conduct Literature Surveys Using Medicine Databases (Part 2)

This is the second in a series of articles that discusses the different databases used in literature review and how they are important to your research and writing. Part I discussed the reference databases that are geared toward the life sciences and related fields. This article discusses those that are used in the field of medical research. The following is a list of literature review databases for medicine. There are many such databases available; however these are the most commonly used in the medical and related research fields.


PubMed Central (PMC) has more than 16 million citations from science journals that date back to the 1950s. This archive is maintained by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health. It covers peer-reviewed papers from biomedical and life sciences journals. NLM was legislatively mandated to maintain biomedical research information. While NLM maintains this information in printed form, PMC maintains it digitally. This is a free-access database.

PMC is not just a database of references. It houses full articles from journals all over the world. Journals that wish to participate in this public-access forum are reviewed for technical accuracy and the quality of their digital files.

Although the goal is to maintain free access to these articles, some copyright restrictions still apply. Be sure that you comply with those rules when using information from PMC.

CINAHL Complete

CINAHL Complete, part of the CINAHL suite, is the best research tool for those in nursing and related fields. This database provides full-text articles from more than 1,500 journals. Its index also covers 5,000+ journals. The information includes more than 5 million records and written text published from 1937 forward.

For those in the nursing, health care, and related fields, CINAHL Complete is a valuable research tool. The website offers additional helpful information, such as books on health care and related conference proceedings. Author affiliations are included in the reference information. Health care professionals can also further their education using the online modules from this accredited source.

MEDLINE Complete

MEDLINE complete is a full-text database. It provides access to more than 2,000 journals from 1916 forward. The journals included in the database are highly recognized biomedical and health publications. MEDLINE Complete is an essential resource tool for health professionals and researchers.

The subjects covered comprise disciplines such as biomedicine, bioengineering, and health policy. The full text from the MEDLINE Complete journals are unique and not found in other related databases, such as Academic Search or Biomedical Reference Collection. Standard Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) can be used to search the database.


PsycINFO is a reference database that covers published articles in the behavioral sciences. The database is maintained by the American Psychological Association. PsycINFO covers a wide range of global research in psychology and related fields, such as neuroscience and law and education.

The database contains close to 4 million bibliographies and indexes more than 2,500 journals. The information dates all the way back to the 1800s and includes books and dissertations. PsycINFO offers publications from more than 50 countries and gets published in 29 languages. It is updated weekly and touted as one of the most current databases in the disciplines mentioned. Each record is reviewed for accuracy before being included in the database. Regular updates allow for increasing its ease of use and indexing features.

As you plan to begin your literature search, visit the website for each of the mentioned databases. Some, such as PubMed are open access; others provide free trials but require a subscription after the trial is over. Use the free trials and any tutorials to your advantage. They will help you begin your searches and instruct you on the best strategies to refine them.

What medical or related field of study does your research encompass? Which reference resource do you use and why? If different from those listed here, please provide a link to it for other readers.