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Efficient literature searching: a core skill for the practice of evidence-based medicine

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Efficient literature searching and the application of formal rules of evidence in evaluating the clinical literature are the two key skills defining the practice of evidence-based medicine. Although clinicians embrace the concepts of evidence-based medicine, most identify limited personal time as the major barrier towards its implementation into daily practice. Busy clinicians who practice evidence-based medicine identify systematic reviews and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines as very useful resources.


This review presents a simple, easy-to-follow, three-step searching strategy that emphasises the use of powerful new PubMed features that allow clinicians to retrieve high-quality systematic reviews, clinical practice guidelines and primary studies with a single mouse click. The overall effectiveness of the process is further improved by highlighting the major features of successful and unsuccessful literature searches.


At the end of this tutorial the reader should be able to conduct efficient and effective literature searches that support clinical decision making in under 10 minutes.

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Correspondence to Gordon Stuart Doig.

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This work was supported by unrestricted educational grants from ResMed and the Northcare Foundation.

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Doig, G.S., Simpson, F. Efficient literature searching: a core skill for the practice of evidence-based medicine. Intensive Care Med 29, 2119–2127 (2003).

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