VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Evidence-Based Medicine

When to Search PubMed for EBM Articles

There are many point-of-care tools that present some evidence from the literature, e.g. DynaMed, FirstConsult, Up-to-Date, but none of these resources cover every condition, not every entry has evidence, and not every entry is current, so it is important to know how to find evidence in the biomedical literature.

There are several strategies for searching PubMed for Evidence:

Searching with Limits

Searching with Clinical Queries

Searching with Search Filters set in MyNCBI

Searching with Limits

One strategy is to limit your search to the relevant article types.  Just do a search with the usual keywords and/or MeSH headings that you would normally use, and then click on Limits. 

PubMed Search Screen


Then check the ‘Type of Article’ that you would like to find and click the Search button at the bottom of the screen.  Meta-Analysis, Practice Guideline, Randomized Control Trial, and Clinical Trial are all good sources for evidence.

PubMed Limits

Searching with Clinical Queries

PubMed’s Clinical Queries are a good way to go directly to the evidence.  As with the Limits search mentioned above, just enter your search using keywords or MeSH headings on the Clinical Queries page and then you will have a choice of looking at articles based on Clinical Study Categories, Systematic Reviews (especially helpful for EBM), or Medical Genetics.  The filters that have been programmed to help refine your search have been extensively tested and proven to provide excellent information.

There are five study Clinical Study Categories:

  • Etiology - causation/harm in disease and diagnostics
  • Diagnosis - disease diagnosis
  • Prognosis - disease prognosis
  • Clinical prediction guidelines - data addressing the likelihood of disease presence or absence
  • Therapy - treatment of disease

And these can all have a different emphasis/scope:

  • Narrow - a specific search that will retrieve fewer more precise, relevant citations
  • Broad – a sensitive search that includes more citations but some will be peripheral to the subject

And there are seven Medical Genetics topics:

  • Diagnosis
  • Differential Diagnosis
  • Clinical Description
  • Management
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Genetic Testing

PubMed Clinical Queries

Searching with Search Filters set in MyNCBI

If you regularly search topics with one of the Clinical Queries, you might want to use MyNCBI to set up some filters that will allow you to see how many articles are in each category.  Just go to 'MyNCBI Site Preferences' - on the upper left of the screen when you sign into MyNCBI

myncbi preferences

 and under PubMed Preferences, go to 'PubMed Filters & Icons'.

prefs list

Choose the Properties category where you will see Clinical Queries.  Use the + to view all the options and choose the combinations that are most useful for you. 

properties filters

When you search PubMed, be sure to sign into MyNCBI first, and then you will see all the categories and the number of articles in each along the right side of the screen under 'Filter your results'.  Notice that if you want to change your filters at any time, there is a link to manage your filters.

filter manage from PubMed