When you’re sourcing evidence for your writing projects, it is essential you access recent credible health and medical information. That’s where reliable medical journal search engines can be helpful.
A medical journal search engine is a centralised online platform that allows you to find literature on any medical topic within seconds. Bioinformatics researchers have found using more than one platform for a targeted search produces broader search results compared to using only one search engine.
While it may not be practical to use all the medical journal search engines listed in this article, having two or three ‘go-to’ medical journal search engines can help you consistently source quality evidence.
Finding a medical journal search engine
Search engines are designed to integrate with an online academic database of archived published literature.
Large medical journal databases index articles from thousands of journals all across the world.
Here are just a few databases commonly used by credible medical search engines:
- EMBASE – owned by Elsevier with over 29 million records
- MEDLINE – contains more than 22 million biomedical published articles in its archive
- PsycINFO – contains more than 3.5 million records
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR)
7 reliable search engines for your health writing
PubMed is probably the first online search engine that comes to mind for health writers. It is a free online archive of medical journal articles maintained by the United States National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NLM).
It contains over 25 million records and searches several databases – including interfacing with MEDLINE and other publications by the NLM, such as MedlinePlus.
You can easily refine your search per topic in PubMed by typing search terms to the MeSH (Medical subject text heading) to filter results and find specific journal articles. It’s also a great resource if you’re writing patient education materials.
If you have a login access from your institution, there are other search engines that search MEDLINE, such as Ovid, Ebscohost and ProQuest.
Ovid is a comparable search engine to PubMed. Its advantage over PubMed is it searches more databases in addition to MEDLINE, including EMBASE and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR). This means that your search will expand to include more results giving you more evidence to use for your writing.
3. Web of Science
Web of Science uses a large database of 8,700 international scientific journals from Thomson Reuters. The database includes a large number of international publications from Asia and requires a subscription to access the articles.
Web of Science has a useful database to search for scholarly research data on emerging trends if you’re writing protocols or guidelines. It covers over 250 disciplines in science, social science, arts and humanities.
4. Science Direct
You may already be familiar with ScienceDirect. It is a full-text scientific database, which can really help your writing when you need to read more than the abstract.
The search engine allows you to find articles in over 3,800 science, technology and medicine journals owned by academic publisher Elsevier.
Another similar portal is SpringerLink that has access to over five million articles in journals operated by publisher Springer.
In 2006, an American researcher authored a review suggesting that, if you regularly use Web of Science to search for articles, Scopus can be a great complement – as neither resource includes everything published.
Scopus is a large database of over 60 million peer-reviewed literature also owned by Elsevier. Scopus interfaces with the EMBASE and MEDLINE databases to search records for journal articles.
You can access the full-text articles from more than 4,200 full-text journals, however login may be required via a subscription for some full-text journal articles.
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6. Cochrane Library
If you’re looking for systematic reviews or meta-analyses, you should search the Cochrane Library. In addition to results obtained from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR), Cochrane library search results can also include control trials in MEDLINE and EMBASE, Cochrane protocols and editorials.
Cochrane library is a subscription-based search platform. However, some open-access articles may be retrieved, depending on when the article is published.
7. Google Scholar
Google Scholar is a free medical journal search engine indexing journal articles from a variety of databases. If you regularly use Google to search online, using Google Scholar will come quite naturally and you can easily navigate and filter the results to suit your search.
Google Scholar is a great secondary search engine to use after your initial search. If you’re having trouble finding an article, often a search in Google Scholar can help you find the article.
Open-access search engines
If you don’t have access to full-text articles through an institution, there are several medical journal search engines that provide open access to free journal articles:
- Directory of Open Access Journals – the database has about 10,000 journals available for open-access
- Open Science Directory – about 13,000 scientific journals are available with open-access
- Free Medical Journals – indexes about 4832 peer-reviewed journals with open-access
- OpenMD.com – health search engine spanning multiple sources and government databases
- Trip Database – medical search engine with filters for evidence type.
What’s your preferred medical search engine for finding journal articles?