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Guide to the Basics

A brief overview of the resources available at the Library of Rush University Medical Center


Databases are digital collections of published information.  Rush subscribes to well over 200 databases, allowing access to literally millions of items.  You can find journal articles, medical images, maps, clinical trials and much more.

Think of a database as an address book, or a card catalog if you've ever used one of those.  Databases contain citations, which is information that allows you to locate an item (usually author, title, journal, date, etc.).   Just as the old card catalogs didn't have the actual item you wanted, the databases (usually) don't provide a direct link to your article.  There are several ways to access these articles, however, and we will go over them on the "Get Access" page of this guide.

Databases must often be searched individually.  Our library webpage features a few of these in the Quick Links area, including:

  •   PubMed, a good bet for anything clinical, has 23 million citations
  •   Scopus, which has a wide range of material and over 80 million records
  •   CINAHL is focused on nursing and allied health applications.

Don't forget the smaller, more targeted databases, and don't be afraid to play around!   Try a few databases, and see which ones you like best!

It’s highly recommended that you use a citation manager (RefWorks is the one recommended by Rush).  It provides a place to keep your articles, lets you organize them into folders, share with classmates, and creates a bibliography and in-text citations as well. The Library provides free access to RefWorks. For assistance using RefWorks:

Helpful Hints

As you use the databases you will develop your own favorite search strategies. Here are a few to get you started.

  • Filters will narrow your results.   For example, you can fine-tune your results by limiting date of publication, language, type of resource and more.
  • Advanced Search allows for a more specific search.
  • Quotation marks allow you to search for a specific phrase; e.g. "foot ulcer"
  • Use uppercase OR to expand your search (e.g. Zika OR malaria will return items that mention either Zika or malaria).
  • Use uppercase AND to narrow your search (e.g. asthma AND inhalers will return only items that mention both asthma and inhalers in the same article).
  • Use an asterisk (*) as a multicharacter wildcard (e.g. orthop*dic will retrieve orthopaedic or orthopedic). Note: this does not work in all databases!

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