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Key research tools to help write Biomedical articles

Prior to the advent of the internet, biomedical researchers relied heavily on analogue tools. However, since around the mid 1990s, the number and sophistication of online research tools has grown dramatically. This article reviews some of the key research tools available for writing biomedical articles. Most of these tools take the form of content databases, which include peer-reviewed published articles, non-published manuscripts in article or data repositories and registered clinical trials.

Search engines and databases

  • PubMed is a foundational tool for conducting literature searches. PubMed is a free search engine that accesses MEDLINE, a bibliographic database of life sciences and biomedical information comprising more than 33 million articles, abstracts and online books. Its affiliate database, PubMedCentral (PMC), is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), serving as a digital counterpart to the National Library of Medicine (NLM)’s print journal collection.
  • Cochrane Library is a collection of databases in medicine and other healthcare specialties provided largely by the Cochrane organisation. Its core database is the Cochrane Reviews, a repository of systematic reviews and meta-analyses which summarise and help researchers interpret medical research results. 
  • ResearchGate is another large database through which researchers can access over 135 million published pages. ResearchGate provides access to research in a number of fields, including biology, life sciences and medicine. 

Publisher-sponsored search engines, databases and resources

In addition to the free databases mentioned, many of the large publishing houses provide extensive research databases of articles, abstracts and other published works. Access to them is subscription-based; many research libraries or institutions purchase multi-user licenses. These databases provide comprehensive access to the content published by their journals, as well as content published by other companies. They also catalogue extensive non-English-language research articles and content.

Three of the larger publisher databases include:

  • Ovid (Wolters Kluwer)
  • ScienceDirect (Elsevier)
  • Wiley Online Library (Wiley)

Open access databases

Open access (OA) publishing has become an accepted source of high-quality content. Listing of OA journals and content can be found, amongst other sources, at these publishers and article aggregators:

  • Hindawi
  • Public Library of Science (PLOS) journals
  • Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

Individual journal websites and databases

Databases may or may not allow you to access to full article content. Once you’ve found an article on a large database, you may need to go the specific journal’s website in order to obtain the full text of the article.

Clinical trials databases

To find the most updated information on clinical trials underway, go to ClinicalTrials.gov or ISRCTN. These registries will enable you to discover and connect you to a multitude of ongoing research trials.

End note: Take a course to maximise your use of these tools

This article has mentioned a number of key research tools for biomedical authors. To harness these tools to best effect, you may consider taking a formal course in biomedical research techniques and biomedical writing. Many medical centres and research institutions offer courses for working researchers. The investment of money and time will reap great rewards over the course of your career.


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