Quick Start Research Toolkit

Database Searching

This section of the Quick Start Research Toolkit is designed to provide you with some tips for increasing the effectiveness of your search skills for a selected set of databases and search engines. However, this guide is not intended to offer a comprehensive tutorial on all aspects of searching or list all the databases that Lane subscribes to. Links to training for other databases are available via the tabs below. For assistance creating advanced searches, contact us via the Lane Library literature review intake form.

Databases and Search Engines


PubMed is a freely-accessible bibliographic database of over 30 million references to articles in the biomedical sciences. The PubMed search interface was substantially redesigned in May of 2020. Highlights include:

  • A new ranking algorithm, Best Match (see Figure 1)
  • Improved navigation that allows you to move from reference to reference and to different locations within a reference. (see Figure 2)
  • Optimized for use on mobile devices

Figure 1: Results sorted by PubMed's Best Match ranking algorithm.undefined

Figure 2:  1) Navigation arrows to move from one citation to the next; 2) links to the article via Lane's journal holdings; and 3) navigation options to move to different fields within the citation. 

Nav and Full Text Links

Quick Tips for Improving Your PubMed Searching Skills

Connecting to PubMed

Be sure to connect to PubMed from Lane Library's website in order to access Stanford content via the Full Text @ Lane Library Stanford icon. (see Figure 2, above)

NCBI Accounts:

Create a new NCBI Account to personalize your PubMed searching experience. You can colorize your search terms; set filters based on study types, (guidelines, systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and randomized controlled trials), and even create alerts based on your search topic. To learn more, visit the NIH guide to creating alerts.

Search Operators:

The key PubMed search operators are “AND,” “OR,” “NOT.” Putting the operators in upper case makes it easier to see the relationship of the search terms to one another. Note that PubMed process searches from left to right. Try clicking on the following examples in PubMed to see how the results change depending on the search operators you use.

  1. bariatric AND obesity AND teens
  2. bariatric AND obesity AND teens OR adolescents TOO MANY! What happened? PubMed searches from left to right, so this search retrieved the same number of references as search #1 and ANY reference that mentions adolescents.
  3. bariatric AND obesity AND (teens OR adolescents) Much better with parentheses! PubMed runs the search within the parentheses first before combining it with the terms outside the parentheses.

Search Tags:

Use PubMed field tags to search a specific field or fields within a reference; e.g., title, abstract, author keywords, medical subject headings, etc.. One of the advantages of using tags is that you are in control of the search with a clear understanding of why you're "getting what you get." This is in contrast to PubMed's relevancy ranking algorithm Best Match where it's not always completely clear why a particular citation was retrieved. Click on the following searches to see how the results change depending on what fields you want to search.

Search Strategies for Common Topics


(infan* [tw] OR newborn* [tw] OR "new-born" [tw] OR "new borns" [tw] OR perinat* [tw] OR neonat* [tw] OR baby [tw] OR baby* [tw] OR babies [tw] OR toddler* [tw] OR minors [tw] OR child [tw] OR child* [tw] OR children* [tw] OR schoolchild* [tw] OR "school child" [tw] OR "school children" [tw] OR adolescen* [tw] OR juvenil* [tw] OR youth* [tw] OR teen* [tw] OR "under age" [tw] OR pubescen* [tw] OR prepubesc* [tw] OR pediatric* [tw] OR paediatric* [tw] OR "Nursery school" [tw] OR kindergar* [tw] OR "primary school" [tw] OR "secondary school" [tw] OR "elementary school" [tw] OR "high school" [tw] OR "primary schools" [tw] OR "secondary schools" [tw] OR "elementary school" [tw] OR "high schools" [tw] OR highschool* [tw] OR "infant" [mesh] OR "Child"[mesh] OR "Adolescent"[mesh] OR "Minors" [mesh] OR "Puberty" [mesh] OR "Pediatrics" [mesh] OR pediatrics)


("covid 19" [tw] OR "novel coronavirus" [tw] OR "sars cov 2" [tw] OR "ncov 2019" [tw] OR (wuhan [tw] AND coronavirus [tw]) OR "corono virus" [tw] OR "coronavirus disease 2019" [tw] OR "coronavirus disease 19" [tw] OR "2019 ncov" [tw] OR "coronavirus 2" [tw] OR "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2" [Supplementary Concept] OR "COVID-19" [Supplementary Concept]) AND english [lang]

For more advanced classes on PubMed visit Lane's upcoming classes page or the National Library of Medicine's tutorials site.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar allows you to search the full-text of journal articles, conference papers, dissertations, academic books, pre-prints, technical reports, court opinions, patents and other scholarly literature across all academic disciplines of research. Because you're searching full-text in Google Scholar, you can often identify relevant research that might otherwise be hidden in standard bibliographic databases, most of which only provide citation-level searching (titles, abstracts, author keywords, etc.). 

To access articles in Stanford-owned journals (including Lane Library and  main campus libraries) be sure to set your library preferences to "Stanford" as shown in the following screenshots. 

Select Settings from the upper left pull-down menu.

GS Settings

Select Library Links and run a search on Stanford. Select both Stanford links.

GS Preferences

After running a search, 1) click on "<<" to display the Find it @ Stanford Med and then click the link to access the article via Lane Library's collection; or 2) click on the Find it@Stanford to access the article from the main campus libraries' collection.  

For more tips on how to search Google Scholar, visit the about Google Scholar page. 


While many searchers of Google simply type search terms into the search box, hit enter, and hope for the best, it's possible to run more effective searches using Google's advanced query options.


If you find yourself frustrated by a particular website's internal search engine, use Google’s site option to search the website from within Google. All you need is your search terms, the URL for the site, and the search "tag" site: Note the colon that follows the word site: Click on the following search string to see the results

pediatric grand rounds site:stanford.edu

To search a broad internet domain such as .edu or .org or .com, simply use the domain suffix as the target of your search. Click on the following search string to see the results

guideline school reopening site:.org

To exclude a particular website or domain from your search, place a minus sign "-" in front of the URL. For example, if you want to exclude all .coms from your search, try the following:

peanut allergy -site:.com


Filetype:pdf is an extremely powerful way to supplement searches of traditional literature databases and search engines like PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. Where Google Scholar searches the full text of scholarly literature, Google allows you to search the full text of a multitude of publication types, many of which might not be considered "scholarly" but are useful nonetheless. These publications could include federal and state reports; policy documents from think-tanks like Rand; training materials and syllabi from educational institutions; guidelines from medical societies; etc.

To tap into this huge corpus of information, use filetype:pdf preceded by your search terms.

adolescents obesity bariatric diabetes filetype:pdf

You can use additional filetypes as well,  e.g., ppt, docx, etc. 

"sleep pods" residents filetype:ppt

For more information on how to search Google, visit the How to search on Google page.


Web of Science

Web of Science is a multidisciplinary database of over 10,000 high-impact journals in the sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities, as well as international proceedings coverage for over 120,000 conferences. Web of Science includes a variety of multidisciplinary databases, including CAB Abstracts and Global Health; Inspect (engineering); BIOSIS (life sciences); and Zoological Record (animal biology). 

In addtion to covering all academic discplines, Web of Science allows the search to re-sort the results of a search by Times Cited. Citation count is often an indicator of the relative impact of a particular research paper.

To search Web of Science, first pick a particular database from the drop down menu, or all databases.


After running a search: 1) click on Times Cited to re-sort the results of your search from most to least cited; 2) view the number of times a paper has been cited; and 3) use the filters on the left of your search results to refine your search. 

WOS Filters

For more information on how to effectively search Web of Science, visit the WOS training and tutorials page.



Lane Medical Library and Stanford University Libraries has an extensive collection of hundreds of diferent literature databases. For help choosing the right database for your research topic, contact Lane Library for research help or submit a literature search intake form. Below is a list of some additional, popular databases:

Cochrane Library: The Cochrane Library is a collection of databases including the Cochrane Database of systematic reviews and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Cochrane Library is often used in conjunction with other bibliographic databases when developing a systematic review. Cochrane Library training and tutorials

CINAHL CINAHL: (Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health) provides authoritative coverage of the literature related to nursing and allied health. CINAHL training and tutorials.

Embase: Embase is a powerful biomedical and pharmacological bibliographic database. Thorouh searches of Embase are considered an integral part of most systematic reviews and metaanalyses. Embase training and tutorials.

Scopus: Scopus is large multidisciplinary citation database of peer-reviewed literature in the life sciences, social sciences, physical sciences and health sciences. Similar to Web of Science, the coverage is quite broad and the search results can be filtered by times cited. Scopus training and tutorials.