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MEDLINE Interfaces and Related Resources on the Web

Second edition, reader comments:

...has now been expanded, rewritten in many areas, and carefully brought as up-to-date as possible. Katcher's agenda here is "the cultivation of an informed and thoughtful approach to searching Medline," and his examples pertain, for the most part, to NLM's PubMed database ( The search strategy used to retrieve journal articles is very clear and well thought out... is a must-have for all library school, medical, hospital, academic, and large public libraries.

Martha E. Stone
Massachusetts General Hosp. Lib., Boston
Excerpted from a book review in the Library Journal (Vol 112, page 112, July 1, 2006)

With this new edition of the highly regarded MEDLINE: A Guide to Effective Searching, pharmacist Katcher again produces an excellent, easy-to-read guide to the intricacies of MEDLINE...

The second edition's title is the first of many changes to the book, and it signals an important change in its tone and scope: a new respect for and focus on using PubMed...

One of the largest and most important additions to the book is the expanded coverage of the differences between MeSH terms and Supplementary Concepts, particularly the detailed look at the Pharmacological Action category, created in 2003. Using the Pharmacological Action category captures more MEDLINE citations than using the equivalent MeSH terms, which the text illustrates with helpful examples. Katcher explains the new category and other supplementary concepts more fully and clearly than sources like the NLM Technical Bulletin, thus making this new terminology and searching opportunity easily comprehensible, even for the MEDLINE novice...

“Framing Questions and Other Practical Tips,” the fifth chapter, is a particularly useful guide to starting research with MEDLINE. Katcher advocates and emphasizes putting thought and deliberation into searching without seeming old-fashioned or pedantic. He acknowledges that doing research is hard work and not just as easy as typing in a keyword or two, but he still offers hope by providing ways to make it easier...

Overall, Katcher's book proves a well-written, quick read perfect for medical librarianship students, physicians, and researchers or anyone interested in improving their MEDLINE searching abilities. It contains the background medical librarians must wish all MEDLINE searchers knew and understood. This book is in no way a practical tutorial for using MEDLINE, but a guide to MEDLINE's depths that serves as a strong footing for a reader's future research. MEDLINE: A Guide to Effective Searching in PubMed and Other Interfaces is highly recommended for medical librarianship courses and medical library collections.

Melissa L. Rethlefsen
Learning Resource Center
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
Excerpted from a book review in Journal of the Medical Library Association (Vol 95, pages 212-3, April 2007)

...I recommend this resource for medical personnel who need to use MEDLINE to access the medical literature. Understanding the structure of the database and studying practical examples should help the reader to search MEDLINE more efficiently.

Ronald A. Herman, PhD
Director, Iowa Drug Information Network
Excerpted from a book review in Annals of Pharmacotherapy (Vol 40, pages 1895-6, October 2006)

...This book can be introductory for the novice or can help the more experienced user develop more appropriate searches. Although some of the writing is technical and more detailed, it is still relatively easy to read and follow.

Charlotte Szromba, Nephrology Nurse Practitioner, University of Chicago
Excerpted from a book review in Nephrology Nursing Journal (Vol 33.6, page 690, Nov-Dec 2006)

This book is unique in that it is about MEDLINE searching and is designed to be read away from the computer, and not used as a tutorial or software manual.

...[it] promises to be an excellent resource for health sciences libraries and should be of interest to both librarians and patrons. Although the emphasis is on searching MEDLINE using PubMed because this interface is most readily available, the search strategies and tips should improve retrieval and lessen some of the frustrations common when using any of the various implementations of MEDLINE.

Junie Janzen
Oklahoma University-Tulsa Library
Excerpted from a book review in Medical Reference Services Quarterly (Vol 26, pages 112-3, Summer 2007)

...The author quickly engages you with his smooth writing style and his excitement about the power and utility of this medical research tool...

I found a review of the first edition that concluded that there was nothing that the book provided that could not be found on the Internet, "for free"... Certainly PubMed's site is well-designed, has excellent tutorials, and users can navigate a Medline interface without using this book. In fact, the author encourages you to use PubMed tutorials as they help with the book's "main mission, teaching you to think critically in applying Medline's power." But I think there is information in this book that is beyond what is available on the Internet. And the author's reformatting of some of the information that is on the Internet is also helpful, and makes some key concepts clearer.

So, my answer to the question, "Who is this book's reader?" The ideal reader is someone who is going to use the Medline database extensively, appreciates a historical perspective, and wants to connect with all the power of this wonderful research tool.

Frances Mentch
Social and Behavioral Sciences Librarian
Cleveland State University Library
Excerpted from a book review in Technical Services Quarterly (Vol 24, pages 118-9, No. 4, 2007)

Readers had this to say about the first edition:

MEDLINE: A Guide to Effective Searching is highly recommended for anyone who uses the medical literature. This simple, well-written book will help clinicians, researchers, or anyone else who relies on the medical literature. It can be used as an introductory textbook and read cover-to-cover in just a few evenings, and it can be kept as a reference for more sophisticated searches. Anyone who wishes to use MEDLINE will benefit from reading this book.

Keith J. Ruskin, M.D.
Yale University School of Medicine
Excerpted from a book review in Anesthsia & Analgesia (Vol 90, pages 1460-1, June 2000)

MEDLINE: A Guide to Effective Searching is a concise, practical, and interesting summary of what the MEDLINE database is and how to use it...I found the book both interesting and very useful. I was reasonably adept at MEDLINE searching before reading the book; however, my ability to quickly develop more specific and appropriate searches has clearly improved since reading this guide. In addition Dr. Katcher does a superb job of imparting his enthusiasm and admiration for the MEDLINE project to the reader. In so doing, he turns what might appear to be a very dry topic into a fascinating account of one of the great projects of humankind... As the author aptly points out, “MEDLINE is a bit like driving a powerful racing car that has been modified for street use. It can transport you with astonishing speed to places you don’t want to go.”...This book will be next to my computer where I search the MEDLINE database. It should probably be next to yours as well.

Ronald M. Stewart, M.D.
University of Texas Health Science Center
Excerpted from a book review in Journal of Trauma (Vol 48, page 574, March 2000).

[The author] succeeds at detailing the inherent concepts of MEDLINE indexing and shows how to use these concepts to empower us to have better searches...The text is a useful primer for those interested in searching MEDLINE. It is a short text that could provide long-lasting returns to researchers, graduate students, and all health professionals who intend to use MEDLINE.

Michael J. Mello, M.D., M.P.H.
Brown University School of Medicine
Excerpted from a book review in Annals of Emergency Medicine (Vol 35, page 411, April 2000).

...most nonlibrarian searchers simply want to get the desired information quickly and with as little effort as possible. This book was not written for them. It was written, instead, for searchers who have been intrigued by the database and want to know more, for students and instructors who have set out to begin at the beginning and gain a good overview, and, finally, for librarians who are always looking to fill in gaps in their knowledge. For this last group, those for whom most of the material is well known, the book is worth reading for recommendation to others...

Nancy Calabretta
Reuben L. Sharp Health Science Library
Excerpted from a book review in Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (Vol 88, page 282, July 2000).

Medline: A Guide to Effective Searching is written in a clear and concise manner. Although its subject matter is complex, the book is an easy read. Medline: A Guide to Effective Searching is a must for physicians and researchers who search Medline regularly. Anyone who follows Katcher's recommendations will become a more effective searcher.

Mary J. Klatt, MALS
Excerpted from a book review in Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (Vol 124, page 1387, September 2000).

MEDLINE: A Guide to Effective Searching is a wonderful tool to aid almost all of us who use MEDLINE. The book clearly meets its intent, “the promotion of better searches and, hence, better application of what is known.” The 1997 decision by the Library of Medicine to abandon its fee structure for the World Wide Web has permitted much greater access and thus makes this guide so much more valuable. While the entire monograph has great merit, I think I found the final chapter, “Framing Questions,” the most useful. The guide is not only helpful, but it is very well written and enormously practical. I recommend it highly.

Philip R. Lee, M.D.
Senior Advisor to the School of Medicine
University of California San Francisco

The primary goal of the book is to promote better searches, and you should be able to search more effectively after reading it...which takes three hours at most...Anyone can combine two terms in MEDLINE and find pertinent information, but you must understand the principles presented in this textbook in order to use the database effectively and efficiently.

Stacy L. Haber, Pharm.D.
College of Pharmacy
University of Arizona
Excerpted from a book review in American Journal of Health-System Pharmacists

...a very well-written and intelligent guide not only to MEDLINE but also the broader issues of searching bibliographic databases. Anyone interested in improving their search skills and making the fullest use of MEDLINE will benefit from reading this book.

David Owen, M.L.S., Ph.D.
Library & Center for Knowledge Management
University of California San Francisco

The quality of the book is very high. It is well written, well organized, and easy to read...It provides valuable information that enables the reader to take full advantage of MEDLINE, which the author Katcher rightly calls a national treasure.

Daniel M. Corcos, Ph.D.
University of Illinois at Chicago
Excerpted from a book review in Physical Therapy (Vol 80, pages 103-4, January 2000).

Updated December 13, 2015