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Searching the Medical Literature LRC@TCC

What kind of information do you need? Where can you go to find it?

The information resource (book, journal, magazine, Internet site, media, database, expert or professional, etc.) you choose should be determined by the type of information you're looking for. Dictionaries give you definitions of terms, academic or scholarly journals give you scientific studies, some Internet sites have consumer or patient-level health information. Use the list below to get some tips for starting your research.

Are you looking for. . .

Is your information need outside these categories? Please contact a librarian for help.

Is the information appropriate to use for health care purposes?

Being able to evaluate the accuracy of health information is critical, especially when it comes to patient safety. If you are in any doubt about the legitimacy of the source of information, whether it is from a journal, magazine, website, book, or even from an expert in any given field, use the resources listed in the Health Portal to help you determine the trustworthiness, currency, and accuracy of information you use in health care practices.

Do you know how to use the information ethically and legally?

Use the Writing & Citations Subject Guide to format your writing and references in the style preferred by your instructor and to avoid plagiarism.

For information on copyright rules, try the Copyright Subject Guide.

Definitions of Health and Medical Terminology

Tips for Searching

  • Are there multiple ways to spell the term you are looking for? (e.g. anesthesia vs. anaesthesia) You may have to try variations on the term to get the definition.

  • Are you looking for the definition of a term as it is used in a specialty health care field rather than a general definition? (e.g. pathology to mean the study of disease or "any deviation from a healthy or normal condition" (from WordNet) You may have to try a subject-specific medical dictionary to get information relevant to your field of research.

Print Resources

American Heritage Medical Dictionary REF R121 .A4447

Mosby's Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing & Health Professions REF R121 .M67

Merriam-Webster's Medical Desk Dictionary REF R121 .M565

Spanish-English, English-Spanish Medical Dictionary R121 .M488

Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary R121 .T144

Stedman's Medical Dictionary REF R121 .S8

Black's Medical Dictionary R121 .C65

Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary REF R121 .D73

Melloni's Illustrated Medical Dictionary REF R121 .D76

Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine REF R121 .O884

Miller-Keane Encyclopedia & Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing & Allied Health R121 .M65

Web Resources

Medical Terminology Subject Guide

Spanish Health Resources

Searching Medical Journals

Articles published in journals are usually provide a very focused view of a topic. The authors may be conducting a study comparing different methods of treatment or diagnosis for a specific disorder. Some articles offer a broader overview of a topic. Journals generally provide more recent information than printed books. Most of the library's articles are available online through subscription databases.

Where To Go

Once you have determined your need to find a journal article, you can used these resources to search for citations, abstracts, and full text articles.

Health Subject Guides

Health Databases

Selected Open Access Internet Resources

If you are looking for an article in a particular journal, search by Publication Name to see if we have it electronically. Use the Citation Linker if you have the citation of a particular article.

Getting Full Text

Most databases allow you to limit your search to articles available in full text. Some databases only provide the citation and abstract (summary) of the article. If you find a citation for an article you would like to have in full text, and TCC does not own the publication, you can request to have it sent to you through interlibrary loan OR you can check to see whether a local academic or public library has the article in WorldCat.

Types of Articles

There are a variety of types of articles published in medical journals. Many of the library databases allow you to limit your search to a specific type of article. Note that different databases use different terminology and definitions to describe the articles. See the list below for definitions of some common article or publication types used by the National Library of Medicine to label articles in MEDLINE.

Case Reports
Clinical presentations that may be followed by evaluative studies that eventually lead to a diagnosis.

Clinical Trials
Work that is the report of a pre-planned clinical study of the safety, efficacy, or optimum dosage schedule of one or more diagnostic, therapeutic, or prophylactic drugs, devices, or techniques in humans selected according to predetermined criteria of eligibility and observed for predefined evidence of favorable and unfavorable effects.

Work consisting of a set of statements, directions, or principles presenting current or future rules or policy. Guidelines may be developed by government agencies at any level, institutions, organizations such as professional societies or governing boards, or by the convening of expert panels.

Works consisting of studies using a quantitative method of combining the results of independent studies (usually drawn from the published literature) and synthesizing summaries and conclusions which may be used to evaluate therapeutic effectiveness, plan new studies, etc.

Practice Guidelines
Work consisting of a set of directions or principles to assist the health care practitioner with patient care decisions about appropriate diagnostic, therapeutic, or other clinical procedures for specific clinical circumstances.

Randomized Controlled Trials
Work consisting of a clinical trial that involves at least one test treatment and one control treatment, concurrent enrollment and follow-up of the test- and control-treated groups, and in which the treatments to be administered are selected by a random process, such as the use of a random-numbers table.

An article or book published after examination of published material on a subject. It may be comprehensive to various degrees and the time range of material scrutinized may be broad or narrow, but the reviews most often desired are reviews of the current literature. The textual material examined may be equally broad and can encompass, in medicine specifically, clinical material as well as experimental research or case reports.

Health and Medical Books

When looking for general descriptions of health topics, including disorders, procedures, specialty fields, etc., books are a good place to start. Printed books, in many cases, are not as current as studies published in more recent professional journals, but journal articles tend to be more narrowly focused on a particular aspect of a topic.


Access full-text ebooks through the TCC Library.

Selected Open Access Internet Resources

In Print

Browse this call number area: R (Medicine)

Use the Library Catalog to find resources in print.

Try these keywords in the catalog: health, medicine, symptoms, diseases, nutrition, fitness  

Search these subjects (Library of Congress) in the catalog: Medicine, Popular

Self-care, Health

Men--Health and hygiene

Health--Popular works 

Medicine, Preventive 

Alternative Medicine

Women--Health and hygiene


If TCC does not own a book you can request to have it sent to you through interlibrary loan OR you can check to see whether a local academic or public library has the article in WorldCat.

Disease, Disorder, Condition Information

For general information about a medical disorder, you may want to use multiple resources, including books and databases.

Try the Infectious and Genetic Disease Subject Guide. Check the Health Subject Guides for other disorders.


Tips for Searching

  • Determine whether there are multiple terms or ways of spelling the disorder. Use the term OR in your search to capture all of the articles on your topic regardless of which term the author uses: e.g. tennis elbow OR lateral epicondylitis, fetal OR prenatal.

  • Journals can publish articles with an overview or review of research related to a disorder, but other articles focus on a particular aspect. Use the term AND in your search to only get the articles that discuss your focus: e.g. breast cancer AND cause, stroke AND occupational therapy.

  •  For epidemiology or public health information including statistics, try the Health Statistics Subject Guide.

Consumer Health Information

Information written for consumers of health care services is written differently. Patients and their families and loved ones may not know the specialized terminology or jargon used by medical professionals, and they may not have a full understanding of the human body, the way body systems work, or the steps they need to take to make themselves better. While there are many high quality, trustworthy resources available online for consumers to learn more about their health, the difficulty of connecting the right information can be a challenge. Be sure to use an evaluation tool to ensure the quality and validity of information you find on the Web.

Selected Consumer Health Web Resources

One of the best sites for patient information is MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. This site has links to authoritative information from all over the Internet as well as helpful resources, including tutorials and sections for specific demographic groups such as Seniors.

TCC Library Databases

Academic Search Complete

Academic Search Complete is the world's most valuable and comprehensive scholarly, multi-disciplinary full-text database, with more than 5,990 full-text periodicals, including more than 5,030 peer-reviewed journals.

Consumer Health Complete

Consumer Health Complete is a comprehensive resource for consumer-oriented health content. It is designed to support patients' information needs and foster an overall understanding of health-related topics. Consumer Health Complete provides content covering all areas of health and wellness from mainstream medicine to the many perspectives of complementary, holistic and integrated medicine.

Health Source: Consumer Edition

This database is the richest collection of consumer health information available to libraries worldwide, providing information on many health topics including the medical sciences, food sciences and nutrition, childcare, sports medicine and general health.

Print Books

Browse these call number areas: RC81 (Popular Medicine), RA778 (Women’s Health), RA777.75 (Men’s Health), R733 & R776 (Alternative Medicine)

Keywords to search: health, medicine, symptoms, diseases, nutrition, fitness

Subjects to search (Library of Congress):

Medicine, Popular

Self-care, Health

Men--Health and hygiene

Health--Popular works 

Medicine, Preventive 

Alternative Medicine

Women--Health and hygiene


If you are considering pursuing a healthcare career, try using the resources from the Careers Subject Guide to get information about salaries, work descriptions, professional organizations, and job opportunities. The Health Professions Programs also provide information for the different educational opportunities available here at TCC.


Use the Library's Health Sciences Subject Guides to find the databases and online resources for research in a variety of specialty areas of allied health care. There are Subject Guides for Geriatrics/Gerontology, Nursing, Infectious and Genetic Disease, and the Therapy Programs offered at TCC.

Health Sciences Librarian

Brittany Horn, MLS, is the Health Sciences Librarian for the College. Feel free to contact me at or 757.822.7007. My office is in the Virginia Beach Campus Bayside Building. I look forward to meeting you and working with you to find the health and medical information you need. Check out my faculty webpage for more useful resources and library services.