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Drexel Library

FFCL 701 Case-based Learning Research Assignment

Health sciences resources to be used for CBL research assignment


Use this Guide to review the available health sciences resources and choose two resources/databases that best fit the subject/topic of one of your learning issues. All the resources listed on the guide provide reliable information: some contain research articles and primary literature; others include practice guidelines or topic summaries.

Search the databases to look for information that will answer your question. Then, complete the assignment worksheet listing your question/learning issue, which databases you chose to search, how the subject coverage of those databases relate to your question, and whether or not you found what you were looking for. The goal is for you think critically about where you search for information, finding the best sources rather than relying on familiar sources.

Please save the completed worksheet (.pdf, .rtf or .doc format) and submit it via Blackboard Learn.


Types of Sources: Primarily journal literature; search results include primary and secondary sources

CINAHL is the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature. It is excellent for researching questions about patient care that fall outside of the clinical treatment questions. Along with many nursing specialties, the allied health subjects covered include: physical therapy, art therapy, nutrition, medical imaging, social services, public health, complementary and alternative medicine, counseling, health policy, palliative care, midwifery, etc.

CINAHL has its own subject headings, similar to MeSH in PubMed, that can be used for advanced searching. In addition to journal articles, CINAHL includes conference proceedings, book chapters, and newsletters so you may want to use the "Peer Reviewed" limit for your searches.



Types of sources: journal articles and conference reports.

Embase is a database of biomedical literature, often described as the European equivalent of MEDLINE; a major difference is that it is proprietary (privately owned and produced by Elsevier), not provided by a government agency. Embase is considered particular strong in coverage of pharmaceutical industry, and drug and medical device development. It includes very broad coverage of international literature.

Emtree is the structured list of subject headings for Embase.



Types of Sources: Journal literature and book chapters; search results include primary and secondary sources

PsycINFO focuses on psychology, behavioral sciences, mental health, neurosciences, social issues, etc. This is the place to start for research questions around mental health, but don't think about it only in terms of the DSM. It is also useful for questions around developmental psychology, and social psychology, etc.

PsycINFO has its own Thesaurus (subject headings), similar to MeSH in PubMed, that can be used for advanced searching. In addition to journal articles, PsycINFO includes conference proceedings, book chapters, and newsletters so you may want to use the "Peer Reviewed" limit for your searches.



Types of Sources: Journal literature; search results include primary and secondary sources

PubMed is best used for researching clinical questions when you want to read the clinical studies that support practice.  If your learning issue addresses diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, or etiology, PubMed is the perfect place to find the clinical research articles. It also includes a lot of literature on the bench science side of biomedical sciences (microbiology, immunology, molecular biology, genetics, etc). However, if your learning issue is mechanism-focused you may also want try to Web of Science.

Web of Science

Types of Sources: Primarily journal articles; search results include primary and secondary sources

Web of Science is a large, multidisciplinary database. Because of its broad subject coverage, it works well for interdisciplinary topics. For example, when your biomedical question includes a component in economics, business, chemistry, biotechnology, engineering, etc. It overlaps with most of the literature found in PubMed, but some researchers prefer the Web of Science search interface for biomedical science topics. Because Web of Science covers so many subject areas, it does not have the controlled terminology that PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycINFO have to facilitate advanced searching.

Cochrane Systematic Reviews

Types of Sources: Cochrane Reviews are secondary sources

The Cochrane Library includes a database of systematic reviews. These systematic reviews look at a specific question, attempt to gather all primary research on that topic, evaluate the research using strict guidelines, and assess whether or not there is conclusive evidence to support specific practices (e.g. a treatment or intervention). There are just over 10,000 Cochrane Reviews to date so there will not be one for every question. This is a great place to start, but don't worry if you can't find a review that fits your topic.

From "About Cochrane Reviews"

A systematic review attempts to identify, appraise and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets pre-specified eligibility criteria to answer a specific research question. Researchers conducting systematic reviews use explicit, systematic methods that are selected with a view aimed at minimizing bias, to produce more reliable findings to inform decision making.


Clinical, Textbook and Reference Resources

Types of Sources: search results include primary and secondary sources

ClinicalKey and AccessMedicine are great sources of clinical information outside of the standard article format. Search results in both databases include book chapters, practice guidelines, drug monographs, patient education materials, images, and procedures videos. Stat!Ref also provides access to current reference and textbook titles.

These are often a good starting place when you need comprehensive background information on the issue you are researching.



Types of Sources: DynaMed pages are secondary sources which link out to supporting primary and secondary sources.

Dynamed is a clinical reference tool. It provides summaries of clinical topics, recommendations based on current evidence, and evaluations of the quality of that evidence. The pages are usually framed around a disease/condition, although there are also pages on regularly used drugs, surgical techniques, etc. Because the information included in Dynamed is linked back to the original research, it is a good place to start when you are unfamiliar with a topic. But for topics that are not well-established, PubMed is better for finding the most recent research.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC website is a great resource when you are looking for data and health statistics. They also cover a variety of public health topics like traveler health, emergency preparedness, workplace safety, etc.

Government and Other Health Services

For questions about health services on a federal, state, or local level, try some of the resources on our Government Health Agencies guide. The first tab covers federal agencies, the second covers Philadelphia and PA resources.


If you have questions about the assignment, or about using any of the resources listed above, please contact one of the Health Sciences librarians.