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Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(4):1212-1215

Medline: a Guide to Effective Searching

By Brian S. Katcher. Pp. 149. Price, $29.00/$45.00. Ashbury Press, 736 Ashbury St., San Francisco, CA 94117, 1999. Phone: 415-665-5920. ISBN: 0-967-34450-6.

With the increasing number of ways to find and collect information electronically, come problems. This book could help the family physician understand and negotiate some of the complexities involved in searching for medical literature through the Medline system.

The book begins with a historical perspective on the National Medical Library, followed by a detailed explanation of the way the library indexes journal articles. The author states that to retrieve adequate information from this system, a good understanding of the indexing system is necessary.

The next sections of the book walk the reader through Medline searches by discussing relevant topics such as ways to limit searches by using Medical Subject Headings (MESH), publication types, date of publication, author names or titles of publication. The author demonstrates how each one of these steps can be used to improve the timeliness and quality of the Medline search.

The final section of the book, which gives the reader information on ways to frame questions for individual searches, provides helpful hints on starting a search even for the user who has little or no experience with literature searches.

Throughout, the book maintains a simple and basic structure that allows even those with few computer skills or minimal to no experience with literature searches to comprehend and successfully use the information. For readers at these initial levels, the book can serve as a helpful starting point. In general, most search engines are now quite user friendly and complete with tutorials to assist first-time users. In my opinion, this book does not possess any information that cannot be retrieved from the Internet for free.

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