🥊 Google Scholar vs PubMed.

When performing a medical literature review you should use PubMed or PapersHive. Use Google Scholar for lookup searches and quick explorations.

🥊 Google Scholar vs PubMed

Google Scholar is the most used search engine when it comes to scientists and researchers all around the world. It has the biggest coverage of publications and when pasting a specific title, Google Scholar will 99% of the time find the publication. Even if the title has misspelled words.

At the same time though PubMed is the most used search engine by clinicians and medical specialists that need to perform drug discovery, drug safety and drug monitoring activities.

As effectively discussed in this article, you should not use Google Scholar for a medical literature review, but use PubMed instead. But let's analyze the main reasoning behind it!

🔍 Search Areas

To reply to the question we need first to assess which search areas medical professionals are usually involved with: lookup searches, exploratory searches and systematic searches.

👓 Lookup Searches

A lookup task is a simple search query that aims to find a specific result. For instance, searching for a paper by its title. While Google Scholar can accurately retrieve results even with query text errors, researchers have reported issues with PubMed's ability to find misspelled titles.

🚀 Exploratory Searches

Exploratory search is a process that aims to acquire new knowledge, but it is challenging and time-consuming, as it requires domain knowledge experience. During an exploratory search, a researcher conducts multiple queries to progressively learn about a topic. At the outset, the queries may be rudimentary, but as the researcher's knowledge deepens through the search process, the queries become more refined.

💊 Systematic Searches

Systematic search and exploratory search differ significantly in their goals and methods. The objective of systematic search is to compile an impartial overview of the accumulated evidence for a specific research question, such as identifying the best treatment for a disease at a certain stage. A well-designed question addresses a clinical need where different interventions' effects may vary, aiming to weigh the costs and benefits of various treatments to make informed decisions. Systematic reviews are thorough evidence syntheses that follow specific method guidelines, with the goal of providing a comprehensive summary of a well-researched field.

When it comes to medical research, Systematic Searches are the ones used and considered for benchmark and guidelines.

⚕️ Evaluating a Medical Search Engine

According to research, a Medical Search Engine (or interface) should be judged upon the following 6 points:

  • Reproducible search: To be a reproducible search means that given a search the results obtained will be always the same. Both for me and you. With the exception of new publications if we are not searching at the same time.
  • Export: Users should be able to export search results.
  • Search history: Histories are needed to create incremental search changes, which are used to selectively focus the search results.
  • Search strategy documentation: Documentation that instructs researchers how to create original search queries and how to iteratively develop new queries that build upon previous searches.
  • Search string builder. These include the use of numerous fields, such as author, title, journal, date, and abstract, and clinical query filters for categories including therapy and diagnosis.
  • Forward citation search. Tools that allow researchers to follow the chain of citing papers.

Let's start our comparison.

In PubMed you can reproduce the search. In Google Scholar instead same queries performed month to month perform different results both rising and falling.

Can you export the results?

In PubMed you can export up to 10,000 results at a time. While in Google Scholar you can only export one at a time. Making systematic searches with hundreds (or thousands) of results basically impossible to export.

Can you edit / inspect search history?

PubMed offers a clean interface to show previous searches that can be combined together with the current one. This is extremely useful as a search strategy tool and as a trail tool. Google Scholar doesn't offer anything similar to it.

Can you access a search strategy documentation?

PubMed has full documentation and tutorials. The same cannot be said for Google Scholar. At the same time though, the second one is designed to have the least amount of options possible. In Scholar we simply search natural language queries. In PubMed a search strategy has to be designed.

Can you create advanced searches?

In both search engines there is an advance search builder. Difference is that PubMed is strict and gives you access to more than 40 field-tags. Google Scholar advanced-search instead is focused on aiding the researcher at a high level, and there is no clear selection for different fields.

Can you follow a chain of citations?

PubMed has a chain of citations that can be seen only once a specific article page is opened. In this aspect Google Scholar is clear and offers a much smoother interface.

In conclusion, PubMed makes a much more stable medical search engine when it comes to in-depth exploratory searches and systematic searches. While Google Scholar remains unbeatable for lookup searches and quick explorations.

🔥 PapersHive

If instead you are feeling you are spending too much time on PubMed and would like to step up search strategies while not losing in relevancy, PapersHive got you covered:

  • Your search is reproducible.
  • You can export results and trends.
  • You get a search history and trail.
  • You can access a full documentation
  • You can automate your search strategies or create new on the fly.
  • You can follow the full chain of citations by "cited-by" or "cites-others"

All connected to a Reference Manager ready to ship your audit! 🚀

Everything starts with search.

With a smart suite of search tools to help you find the information you need, when you need it. Enhance your Search Experience with PapersHive Today!

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