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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

You're in the right place

This guide is for you.

Whether you're a local New Havener or you join us from across the globe, you've found the right place. This guide attempts to share information you may not realize you need. From library jargon to collection discovery, this is an invitation to be vulnerable and admit we all are lifelong learners. You are not expected to know everything. All you need to know is in this guide. Whatever you can't find here can be answered by the dedicated staff and librarians at the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library. 

If you don't see something that you believe should be here, send me an email to let me know.

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


This guide aims to help you: 

  • Define familiar terms and concepts within medical libraries & higher education
  • Identify the support you can receive from librarians and library staff
  • Understand the purpose of a Personal Librarian
  • Engage with existing Library Guides 

Defining Medical Library and Research Terms

Medical Specific

  • 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.

General Library Vocabulary

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Controlled vocabulary- Standardized terms used in searching a specific database.
  • 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.
  • Database- A collection of information stored in an electronic format that can be searched by a computer.
  • 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.
  • DOI- Acronym for Digital Object Identifier. It is a unique alphanumeric string assigned by the publisher to a digital object.
  • 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.
  • Limits/Limiters- 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 Filters
  • 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)

Personal Librarian

Can't find what you're looking for?

Please email Courtney Brombosz, MLS with questions, concerns, suggestions, and comments regarding the guide.

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