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Medical Student Success at Yale's Medical Library: Library Survival Guide

A helpful guide to navigating essential tools, resources, and services all in one place

Before you get started...

Since you're new to Yale and the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, we recommend going through the following links to make sure you're all set up to access library materials remotely. Feel free to contact us with any questions!

Go-To Resources


Defining Medical Library and Research Terms

  • Concept Table- The use of a structured table to systematically search and answer a research/clinical question. Some familiar concept table structures include PICO, an acronym for Patient/Population/Problem, Intervention, Comparative Intervention, and Outcome. Other structures include PICOT, SPIDER, SPICE, and ECLIPSE.
  • MeSH- Acronym for Medical Subject Heading, MeSH is a controlled vocabulary (thesaurus) established by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. MeSH vocabulary is applied by humans, giving uniformity and consistency to the indexing and cataloging of biomedical literature.
  • Grey Literature- information produced outside of traditional publishing and distribution channels, and can include reports, policy literature, working papers, newsletters, government documents, speeches, white papers, urban plans, etc.
  • Systematic Review- a specific type of literature review that has become a generalized term for all biomedical reviews. A true systematic review seeks to systematically search for, appraise, and synthesize research evidence; often adhering to guidelines on the conduct of a review.
  • Boolean operator- A word—such as AND, OR, or NOT—that commands a computer to combine search terms. Helps to narrow (AND, NOT) or broaden (OR) searches.
  • Controlled vocabulary- Standardized terms used in searching a specific database.
  • Database- A collection of information stored in an electronic format that can be searched by a computer. Provides the ability to search different sources and types of information.
  • DOI- Acronym for Digital Object Identifier. It is a unique alphanumeric string assigned by the publisher to a digital object.
  • Field Code- A specific part of a record in a database. Expected fields that can be searched include author, title, subject, and abstract.
  • Filter- Options used in searching that restrict your results to only information resources meeting certain other, non-subject-related, criteria. Limiting options vary by database, but common options include limiting results to materials available full-text in the database, to scholarly publications, to materials written in a particular language, to materials available in a particular location, or to materials published at a specific time. Sometimes known as Limits/Limiters
  • Platform- the interface used by a database provider. For example, PubMed and Medline are on two different platforms but provide the same set of journals to search.
  • Critical Appraisal- the process of systematically examining research evidence to judge its trustworthiness, its value and relevance in a particular context
  • Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM)- Evidence-Based Practice as it relates to Medicine
  • Evidence-Based Practice (EBP)- Evidence-Based Practice is the conscientious use of current best evidence in making decisions about patient care. This includes evidence found in the literature, the expertise of the practitioner, and the preferences of the patient. Evidence-based Practice is an all-encompassing term that covers all health disciplines.
  • Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)- An accrediting body for educational programs at schools of medicine in the United States and Canada.
  • Article- A brief work—generally between 1 and 35 pages in length—on a topic. Often published as part of a journal, magazine, or newspaper.
  • Citation- A reference to a book, magazine or journal article, or other work containing all the information necessary to identify and locate that work. A citation to a book includes its author's name, title, publisher and place of publication and date of publication.
  • Course reserve- Select books, articles, videotapes, or other materials that instructors want students to read or view for a particular course. These materials are usually kept in one area of the library and circulate for only a short period of time.
  • Document Delivery- A service that retrieves or photocopies information sources for library users. Some libraries restrict document delivery services to distance education students, faculty members, or graduate students.
  • Information Literacy- includes the ability to identify, find, evaluate, and use information effectively. From effective search strategies to evaluation techniques, students learn how to evaluate the quality, credibility, and validity of websites, and give proper credit.
  • Interlibrary services/loan-A service that allows you to borrow materials from other libraries through your own library. See also Document delivery.
  • Journal- A publication, issued on a regular basis, which contains scholarly research published as articles, papers, research reports, or technical reports.
  • Metadata- Literally, "data about data." Structured information describing information resources/objects for a variety of purposes. 
  • Peer-reviewed journal- Peer review is a process by which editors have experts in a field review books or articles submitted for publication by the experts’ peers. Peer review helps to ensure the quality of an information source. A peer-reviewed journal is also called a refereed journal or scholarly journal.
  • Reference- 1. A service that helps people find needed information. 2. Sometimes "reference" refers to reference collections, such as encyclopedias, indexes, handbooks, directories, etc. 3. A citation to a work is also known as a reference.

 (A full list is available- provided by the Association of Collection and Research Libraries)

Boolean: Explained

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Essential Resources