Advancing PubMed? A comparison of 3rd-party PubMed/Medline tools

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Systematic reviews of biomedical literature are used to inform patient treatment. Yet the acquisition of relevant literature is proving increasingly challenging due to the large volume of information that needs to be searched, filtered and collocated. There is a need to improve the efficiency of biomedical literature searches. PubMed remains the primary resource for biomedical literature, and as PubMed makes the Medline data and Entrez PubMed Programming utilities freely available, any developer can produce alternative tools to search the database. The authors question if PubMed still provides the superior search interface for systematic searches or if the innovativeness of third-party tools provide alternatives worth considering. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

In all, 76 third-party tools that build on PubMed content were identified in a PubMed search and in published studies known to the authors. Only tools that provided free access to the broad PubMed content and designed specifically to enhance the search were included, reducing the set to 16 tools. The functionality of each tool within the scenario of a systematic search was compared across 11 aspects. A systematic search in PubMed was used as study control.

The 16 tools limited rather than advanced the sorting, filtering, and export functionality required in a systematic search. The reproducibility of the searches in these sources was reduced. The study shows that PubMed remains the superior provider for searching, identifying, and exporting biomedical literature for systematic reviews.

The work contributes to the discussion of how librarians can help researchers navigate the biomedical literature in systematic reviews.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLibrary Hi Tech
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)669 - 684
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Bibliographic systems , PubMed , Online retrieval , Information searches , Search and retrieval

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