Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Some Great Google Tips

Kevin, MD posted some great tips for using google to search through the medical literature. I wanted to post a few of my own.
  1. Use Google Scholar ( I use this all the time. It searches specifically for "scholarly" hits. In fact it appears to incorporate pubmed into its search routine as many pubmed references come up. However, unlike pubmed, it appears to order its results by relevance rather than chronologically. In fact, each citation includes a hyperlink to a search of references that themselves cite that citation.

    To see what I mean, do a Google Scholar search on a particular topic. Then check the lower left hand part of each reference. Click on the hyperlink there and you'll see what I mean.

  2. Do conventional searches with Google but include the search term "differential". That word rarely if ever appears in the layperson's lexicon. This effectively filters out the vast majority of layperson's websites and focuses your search on more technical references.

    For example, Googling on fibromyalgia will yield some 1,510,000 references most of which are probably the inevitable fibromyalgia support groups. Throw "differential" into the search and it miraculously cuts your results down to 71,900 generally academic citations.

  3. Use Google to search for images. Go to the main Google search page and type in your search terms. Just above the text box, there is a short list of hyperlinks. Click the one labeled "Images". Then click the "Search Images" button. The references that come up will all be images. This is great for seeing what specific diseases and anatomy look like (also for finding pictures of your colleagues).

  4. Get the book Google Hacks. Many of the tricks described are advanced and require programming skill. However, many are quite straightforward and practical even for the technologically-challenged.
I hope this helps!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice summary. I also use Google images all the time and I find it very helpful, especially when I am reading on some "dry" subject from a book without illustrations. Also, you can check out the web page that Google shows below the image (when you click on it), sometimes this can lead you to very interesting pages which are otherwise hidden on page 20-30 from the regular search results. We are all visual creatures and clinical images are definitely helpful.

The image search was one of the reasons we started the Clinical Cases and Images project to share typical and not-so-typical cases. It was very rewarding to find the clinical images that we posted (like cardiac tamponade) on Google and Yahoo searches.

Google Scholar is good, no doubt about it, mainly because it uses the same Google link-to page rank algorithm to weigh the significance of a particular article. The problem with the Scholar is that it lags behind PubMed in updates, for example if you search for a topic and the article was published in 2/05, it will not appear in Scholar but it will show up in PubMed.

Using "differential" or other medical terms to sort out the commercial websites is very useful. The other option is to go by the source, like "search term" + "NEJM", "AFP", "Merck manual", "eMedicine", etc., just like Kevin mentions it in his post. Also, Google offers personalized search that you can use to shift the slider to "Max", and it leaves the commercial websites out.

June 15, 2005 10:13 AM  
Blogger The Medicine Man said...

Thanks for the insight. I should have mentioned that google only "crawls" through the web once a month or so so yes, Google Scholar will always lag pubmed which itself often updates very quickly.

I've seen pubmed citations from a journal's most recent issue.

I wasn't aware about the Personalized search that enables you to filter out commercial sites. I'll have to give that a try!



June 15, 2005 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from a medical librarian. Your article has been making the rounds of medical library blogs and listservs. It's fascinating to discover how physicians use the web, especially Google and Google Scholar, for information gathering.

A couple of points. Google's coverage of PubMed content can be significantly out of date. I conducted tests earlier this year and rechecked them recently -- and they indicate that the coverage of PubMed in Google may be off by as much as a year. (See my blog posting at

That means if physicians are serious about practice excellence, many important articles will go unnoticed. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with using Google or its subsets to find what I call "a something" (which roughly translates into something that looks like "good enough" for the task at hand) it shouldn't be relied on for practice excellence. While using Google for a quick lookup for an ICD code is nifty, using the term "differential" as a way to get quality information is pretty arbitrary and may result in missing important information.

PubMed is such a fabulous tool, and there is so much in it to help physicians find better information faster. Here are some examples:

1. Review articles.

When you conduct a search, PubMed automatically subsorts review articles from other results. Review articles can help bring you up to date on the most important research on your topic.

2. Try the Clinical Queries Option in PubMed.

The Clinical Queries options (in the left hand sidebar of the PubMed home page) helps narrow your search to clinically relevant results.

3. MedLine Plus offers ready-to-go PubMed searches for recent publications.

MedLine Plus ( also links to ready-to-go PubMed searches from any of its topical pages (Look on the left hand side of the MedLine Plus page for the box headed "Search Medline/PubMed for Recent Research Articles on [topic]"). Most of these pre-configured searches limit to publications less than 1 year old -- another great way to find up to date information.

June 22, 2005 7:40 AM  
Blogger The Medicine Man said...


Thanks for the input. I use some of the more advanced features of pubmed all the time.

For example, I use the limits feature regularly as well as do customized searches using the tags that are described in the pubmed FAQ's page:

One of my favorite tricks is to use the "Subsets" field of the limits tab. I then set the "Subsets" window to "Core Clinical Journals".

This limits the results to the more "authoritative" citations. I use this setting almost exclusively. The "Publication Types" field is helpful for filtering specific types of articles.


June 23, 2005 9:33 AM  
Blogger The Medicine Man said...

Rita makes one other very important point. This is that google crawls, as noted by "Clinical Cases" and myself, through the internet infrequently. Pubmed is updated literally every day. Some webpages NEVER make it into google for some reason.

I apologize if I gave the impression that Google Scholar could REPLACE Pubmed. It can't for the reasons Rita gave.

It does have some advantages as noted. One other is that Google Scholar also locates many pdf files and other forms of complete articles many of which can be accessed for free!


June 23, 2005 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Kevin, John, Rita,
I too am a medical librarian. You may wish to keep up to all the recent research on Google Scholar on my blog: UBC Google Scholar Blog

You may be interested in my thoughts on Google Scholar Vs. PubMed here.

I am writing something about physician use of Google for Lancet and/or NEJM. Let's hope it gets published.

June 24, 2005 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear All,

I run a Q&A service for general practitioners in the UK ( and one of my favourite tricks is to use Google to search PubMed (Google advanced search >> restrict site domain to PubMed's). It has frequently found articles that my usual search of PubMed never finds - I'm thinking of phrase searching particularly e.g. double dosing


July 03, 2005 11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jon et al,

I'm very interested in your above comment about using Google to search PubMed. When you use Google's advanced search page and limit to PubMed's domain name - which one do you use? The long one? or the shorter one:

This might be the reason your results are not what you expect. Do you ever use Google Scholar? Dean

July 08, 2005 9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

find advance search

Here's some useful info on find advance search
which you might be looking for. The url is:

November 28, 2006 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Here's some useful info on find advance search
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November 28, 2006 9:10 PM  

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