Resource Tips is a series of features on commonly-asked questions and needs. Looking for a good patient handout information source? Wondering how to find a recent top-cited article on a topic? Ever think there might be more to medical information than UpToDate and PubMed? Resource Tips endeavors to answer these questions and more!
Do you have a burning question that might make a good resource tip topic? Let us know -- it might be worthy of inclusion in Resource Tips!
A special thank you goes out to the librarians at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library at Columbia University - the originators of the Resource Tips series.
Explaining something in layman's terms that your patient can understand can be hard to do - but even more so if the patient's first language is not English. A couple of resources that might come in handy when you are trying to help patients to better understand their situation are "AAFP Conditions A to Z" - a reference book written for patients put out by the American Academy of Family Physicians - and the Patient Education section of MD Consult. Both resources allow you to quickly look up a condition or medical topic and find a consumer-friendly, easy-to-understand information sheet that you can print out for your patient. Even better - many of the topics are also available in Spanish!
To get to "AAFP Conditions A to Z" - search for "AAFP" in the Galter Library website search, then choose the "Books" tab. To get to the MD Consult Patient Education section, click the MD Consult link in the Popular Resources section of the library's home page, then select Patient Education at the top of the page.
If you are specifically looking for a drug information sheet for your patient (including information in Spanish), be sure to check out the Patient Education information in Clinical Pharmacology. From the Galter Library homepage > Popular Resources > Clinical Tools > Clinical Pharmacology > Patient Education.
Finally, for those patients who prefer to surf the net themselves for information - do them a favor and introduce them to MedlinePlus (www.medlineplus.gov) - a database/search engine of authoritative sources of information put together by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. With MedlinePlus, you can have the peace of mind of knowing that your patients are finding their way to trustworthy websites, many of which are available in both English and Spanish.
Nothing can be more frightening for a patient than not understanding what is going on with their health. Some reliable, easy-to-understand information that they can process on their own can go a long way in establishing a relationship of trust between you and your patient.
As you rotate through your clerkships and interface with the many teachers and mentors that will guide your learning experience, it may happen that someone points you to the "perfect" article on a topic that may not be as up to date as you would like. In such a situation you have a choice: a) you can run a brand new search on the topic or b) you can use the original citation information to lead you to more articles like it. This resource tip will focus on the latter.
The best resource to turn to for finding more current literature on the same topic is a database called Web of Science. WoS may be accessed from Galter Library's homepage under Popular Resources > Top Databases > Web of Science or directly at http://isiknowledge.com/WOS. Once in, the tab for "Web of Science" should already be selected; if not, click on it.
WoS essentially allows you to virtually browse the bibliographies of published articles, forward and backwards in time. Working on the assumption that scholarly articles will cite earlier articles that the current research is building upon, plugging an older citation into the database should lead you to articles that have cited the original work since its publication. Chances are very good that these more current "citing" articles will also be on a similar topic. WoS's sorting feature allows you to view results in reverse chronological order, with the most recently published ones appearing up top. You can also sort the results by Times Cited which can lead you other highly-cited articles on that topic. A free resource that works on a similar principle of citation analysis is GoogleScholar (http://scholar.google.com/), although Web of Science will generally be more comprehensive.
Another way to get to more current articles on the same topic is to take advantage of "Related Articles" type search tools like the one available in PubMed.
Using the Single Citation Matcher service in PubMed, you can easily plug in the citation information you have and quickly bring up the original citation's abstract.
Once in the abstract view, you will see a preview of Related Citations on the right side of the screen; click See All to access the full results of PubMed's related search algorithm. This algorithm works by pulling information from the article's MEDLINE record data - in particular, from its assigned Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). The resulting list of citations is displayed by relevancy but can also be re-sorted by publication date.
It may turn out that the older citation you started with was in fact the "perfect" article on the topic after all. By looking forward in time, however, you will be sure to catch any change in the direction of research or thinking.
Nothing can be more hectic than life as a busy clinician who is always on the move. If working on the go is challenging your ability to manage your papers and research, here are a couple of tools you can use to take control of the situation.
First of all - take advantage of database services that allow you to save your past search strategies and search results. If you get into the habit of saving your searches, you will never again have to waste time re-creating searches to identify or locate misplaced articles. These tools also often allow you to customize your search experience further with search filters and alerting functions that let you know whenever new literature appears on your favorite topic. One such service is MyNCBI offered by PubMed.
Next, invest some time learning how to use Endnote software – free to NU affiliates - or a web-based bibliographic citation management tool such as Zotero for Firefox. Endnote can be downloaded at from our EndNote Support page. Zotero can be installed as an Add on in Firefox or downloaded as a standalone program.
And it should be noted that these tools are not your momma's citation management tools! Not only can EndNote help you manage your citations and format your bibliographies but you can now actually store your PDF articles right in the citation records - making your research super-portable and compact. In fact, you can upload and store pretty much any kind of file (including images of graphs and charts as well as the PDFs for the citations themselves)...so you may find that adapting an EndNote database to store information other than citations may not be such a bad idea. Be creative - it is a powerful tool!
You can learn all about EndNote using our EndNote Basics guide and Zotero using our Zotero Citation Manager guide. Register for an EndNote class or request an EndNote session for you or your group.
Often times, the quickest and easiest way to get an overview of a topic is by reading a good review article. Locating one, however, can be tricky - largely because in the medical literature a "review article" can mean many different things.
For example, a review article may synthesize the information found in just one article or it may summarize the results and conclusions of two or more publications. A review article may focus on just one management option available for a particular disease or it may provide an overview of all management options currently in use. Furthermore, the review may aim to bring attention to only selected studies of interest to the author or it may be a systematic review where an effort is made to identify all existing literature on a topic. Not surprising, therefore, a review article can be as short as a one-page executive summary or as long as a 100+ page Cochrane systematic review.
Whatever the type of review article you are looking for, a good place to begin your search is PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?holding=norwelib&otool=norwelib). PubMed not only indexes primary research articles but also review sources such as the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and ACP Journal Club. Once you type in your search terms and conduct your search on a topic, the easiest way to identify the review articles in your results list is to look for the Review filter on the right-hand side of your results. If you wish to take it a step further and limit your search specifically to only systematic reviews, then Filter to Subjects = Systematic Reviews. The resulting list of articles will include both Cochrane publications, as well as systematic reviews published in the regular journal literature. It also includes practice guidelines and consensus statements.
Relying on journal staples like JAMA and NEJM is a good way to keep on top of new developments in medicine but chances are you will often need to go to lesser known publications in the course of your research. Here are some steps you can take to determine the quality of a journal that you are less familiar with.
1. Look at who is on the journal's editorial board.
An editorial board is your clue that the journal is peer-reviewed which means that these folks (best if invited and not volunteer editors) are reviewing the content submitted and selecting only the most worthy of studies for publication. Keep in mind "worthy" is generally judged in terms of interest to the field, in addition to the quality of the research. Browsing the names and affiliations of the board members can often give you a sense of how prestigious the journal is, assuming you are familiar with the big players in the field.
2. See how the journal's impact factor compares to that of other journals in the same field.
Use a database called Journal Citation Reports (http://isiknowledge.com/jcr) to look up the journal's impact factor - a numerical value that tries to relate the degree of impact that a particular journal is having in a field of research. JCR establishes this number by taking various factors into account but it is largely based on how often the articles published in that journal have been cited by other journal articles. The number on its own doesn't mean much, so it's best to compare it with other journals in the same field, i.e. we recommend using the subject search option. Access Journal Citation Reports from the Popular Resources - Top Databases section of the library's website.
3. Find out if this journal is included in reputable indexes to the health sciences literature like MEDLINE.
The producers of databases like MEDLINE provide another level of peer-review when they decide which journals are worthy of inclusion in their indexes to articles. That said, note that PubMed indexes a lot more content than just MEDLINE (i.e. MEDLINE is a subset of PubMed). For example, PubMed also includes all BioMed Central and PubMed Central articles, among other things, as a show of support for open access initiatives (full-text freely-available to the public). Other vendors may include a journal title in their databases simply because they also sell access to that journal's full-text content. Beware of such situations where inclusion in a database bears no relation to journal quality.
A final thing to keep in mind is that just because you have to pay for something doesn't automatically mean it is better quality and vice versa. Many reputable open access journals (e.g. PLoS Medicine - http://www.plosmedicine.org/) are rigorously peer-reviewed in the same fashion as traditional publications and are also assigned impact factors in JCR. And with the NIH Public Access Policy (http://publicaccess.nih.gov/) requiring that all publications stemming from NIH-funded research be deposited in PubMed Central (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/), the "free" pool is growing every day.