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Search for Evidence

There are several databases to search when looking for good, reliable evidence-based research. NHS Evidence provides access to these, with an Athens account. Medline can be searched direct via PubMed, but with less access to full text resources and limited to saved searches.

To access the databases, go to NHS Evidence, Journals and Databases, then Advanced Search. Log in with your Athens details, then select the database you require.

Which Database?

These databases are all basically collections of journal article abstracts, the difference coming from the range of journals included, which focuses the content on particular subject areas:

  • AMED (Allied and Complementary Medicine), 1985 to present (Allied health professions, complementary medicine)

  • BNI (British Nursing Index), 1992 to present (Nursing, midwifery, health visitors)

  • CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature), 1981 to present (Nursing, allied health professions, including midewifery, radiology, therapies etc, more international coverage than BNI)

  • EMBASE (Excerpta Medica Database), 1980 to present (Drugs and pharmacology, other aspects of human medicine, very good on GP & Family Medicine, more European than Medline, with only 40% overlap of content)

  • HBE (Health Business Elite), 1922 to present (Healthcare administration, institution management)

  • HMIC (Health Management Information Consortium), 1979 to present (Records from King’s Fund and Department of Health)

  • Medline, 1950 to present (General medical database, covers all fields including dentistry, veterinary etc.)

  • PsycINFO, 1806 to present (Psychology and allied fields, all mental health related areas)


These are just the databases subscribed to by the NHS: there are others such as Social Care Online and  ERIC (Education Resource Information Center) which are free, and many others (ChildData or CancerLit for example) which require subscription.  

As well as PubMed, popular alternatives are Google Scholar and TRIP Database. Although all results in Google Scholar are from books and journals, and so can be reliably referenced, there are only limited options within the advanced search: you cannot order by date, and Google cannot or will not provide a list of journals indexed, so you cannot be sure how comprehensive the search is. However for a quick snapshot search, it is very useful, especially with its citation listings and formatted references, but do not regard a Google Scholar search as a formal literature search. TRIP Database does provide a list of sources, and simultaneously searches PubMed, so can provide a quick and easy route to evidence sources. Again, limited advanced search options, so less reliable than a formal database search, but very easy to use, with useful extra features (sort by clinical specialty, image search etc).

Downloadable documents

Guide to searching HDAS Databases (from EEHIST)

Guide to Literature Searching (from Thames Valley)

Guide to Searching PubMed (from PubMed)

Guide to Google Scholar - coming soon

Finding the Evidence Training Workshops - coming soon

Further Help

For assistance in getting started with searching, contact your nearest Trust Library – we can offer one to one teaching, small group training and also conduct a professional literature search for you, depending on your needs. We won’t do a search for your academic project, such as a dissertation, but we can help you improve your own search skills so that you can understand (and document) the methodology, as well as access articles.

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