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Searching for Food, Diet & Nutrition in PubMed

By Eric Rumsey and Janna Lawrence

Much of the power of PubMed searching is due to the elegant Medical Subject Heading [MeSH] system used to index articles. When you type words into the PubMed search box, it looks for the most appropriate MeSH terms to use for your topic. When PubMed searches those MeSH terms, it also searches for closely related terms that are narrower in scope. This is especially useful because it makes it easy to search for broad categories of subjects. Search for cancer, for instance, and you’ll get every type of cancer, from leukemia to melanoma, whether the actual word cancer is used or not. The MeSH system works well for most all subjects in PubMed. A glaring exception, however, is food and nutrition.

Unlike most other subjects, to do a comprehensive food and nutrition search, it’s necessary to search for at least four different concepts:

  • Food and Beverages (a MeSH term)
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena (a MeSH term, which includes Diet as a narrower term)
  • Diet Therapy (a subheading)
  • Nutrition (Unlike the concepts above, this is actually not a MeSH term; it includes searching for the word nutrition as a text word, and several MeSH terms that use the word nutrition or nutritional)

Unfortunately, the articles that are indexed with terms in these clusters often do not overlap. Many articles are in only one of the clusters. Making things even more complicated, there are some aspects of the subject that are not included in any of these broad concepts. This is especially the case when searching for specific food ingredients or nutritional supplements. Here are a some examples that illustrate this — these articles are not indexed with any of the general nutritional MeSH terms mentioned above:

New post: How to do a comprehensive food and nutrition search by creating a saved search or search filter in PubMed.

UI affiliates: For help with food and nutrition searching in PubMed, please contact librarians at Hardin.


DSM-5 Now Available Online

The DSM-5 is now available online through the American Psychiatry Association’s Psychiatry Online platform.  It is available at http://purl.lib.uiowa.edu/dsm.  The link can also be found by searching DSM-5 in Smart Search or InfoHawk.


Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have long been considered one of the highest levels of evidence, and lately, publication frequency in health science journals is on the rise.  However, there are still a lot of people who are unaware of what goes into writing a systematic review or a meta-analysis. This post will discuss what a systematic review entails, how it differs from a meta-analysis, and the value that librarians bring to both types of studies.

A systematic review is a research study that seeks to find all the high quality studies done on a given topic so that they can be summarized into one article.  If the studies are homogenous or similar enough to one another, the data can be extracted and combined using statistical formulas. This statistical compilation of data is a meta-analysis. Not all systematic reviews contain a meta-analysis, but all citations to be included in a meta-analysis should be located through a systematic search, to reduce the risk of bias.

An important part of preparing a systematic review is to ensure that the method used is explicit and transparent, allowing for another team to replicate the process. The first step involves putting together a team of at least two researchers who will independently review the studies located.  These researchers then develop a research question and write up a protocol that explicitly detailing how the systematic review will be carried out. One of the details is the criteria against which studies will be assessed for inclusion in the review. It is highly recommended that researchers register their protocols before they begin the formal search for studies.  Once the protocol is in place, the search for and review of high quality studies can begin. Systematic reviews can take anywhere from one year to eighteen months to complete due to the rigorous nature of the review process. Librarians are highly skilled and trained to develop what are often complicated and lengthy search strategies in order to locate as many relevant studies as possible.  They are also familiar with standards and basic steps for completing a systematic review. In the report, Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews, the Institute of Medicine recommends working with a librarian or other information specialist to plan out the search strategy and to peer review the final strategy used to locate studies. Three of the librarians are Hardin Library have attended the Systematic Review Workshop: The Nuts and Bolts for Librarians which takes place over the course of two and a half days.

If you would like to learn more about conducting and locating systematic reviews, please see the Systematic Review LibGuide. You are also welcome to contact us if you have any questions.

Image of Getting Help page on guide


Scopus mobile app: Scopus Alert for iPhone


The Scopus Alert for iPhone app allows you to 1) do keyword search, 2) email, bookmark, and tweet an article, and 3) receive email alerts when articles get cited. Keep in mind that you can only view abstracts, and full-text links are NOT available. A workaround is to email an article to oneself and access the fulltext outside of the app.

Before you download and install SciVerse Scopus Alerts (institutional subscriber’s version) from the App Store on your iPhone, you need to create a Scopus account at http://purl.lib.uiowa.edu/scopus. You will be prompted to enter your Scopus log in and password and your UIowa email when you first open this app. Detailed instruction can be found at SciVerse Scopus iPhone app User Guide (PDF file).


Scopus is a multidisciplinary database with substantial international coverage. All citations that are in EMBASE are also in Scopus. Scopus also allows you to measure an author’s scholarly impact and to track an article’s cited and citing references.

Come to Hardin Library on Tuesday, Feb 19th, 1:00-2:00 pm and learn more about Scopus. Register for the class at http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/hardin/workshop/.


New Compounding Resources from USP

U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) recently added a new page on its website dedicated to compounding information including USP standards.  USP General Chapter <797> Pharmaceutical Compounding – Sterile Preparations can be downloaded  free of charge, at least for now.

Contact us if you have questions. Don’t forget Hardin Library’s subject guide on Clinical Pharmacy Resources also has a subpage for compounding resources.



New Google search feature: drug information directly shown on results page

If you have not noticed it yet, type a drug name into Google search box and you will see a quick information box on the right side of your results page. Google announced this new feature on Dec 11, 2001 on Google +.

At the bottom of the box, sources are acknowledged and a link for reporting errors provided. A prominently placed disclaimer states “Consult a doctor if you have a medical concern.”



What is Metadata?

Research has become increasingly data-intensive. Many funding agencies, such as National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) have started to implement policies and guidelines regarding data management and sharing. In such context, metadata is a term that is often used but not always explained or defined.

A recent blog post by Bonnie Swoger, a librarian at SUNY Geneseo, does an excellent job in explaining metadata using examples many , if not all, can related to. Swoger blogs at Information Culture, a Scientific American blog.

Read on and happy holidays! What is metadata? A Christmas themed exploration.

Christmas tree at Hardin

Christmas Tree Made Out Of Hardin Books/Journals


January 1, 2013 changes to NCBI Web Pages Browser Support

The National Institute of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) will no longer support Internet Explorer version 7 and Firebox version 3 browsers as of January 1, 2013.  NCBI will also no longer be able to guarantee the browser’s  functionality, as they are no longer going to do any further testing of the web applications.  This means that if you are currently using one of these browsers, some  NCBI web pages might not display correctly.

These changes could affect how you are able to view web pages in PubMed (www.pubmed.gov) or in any of the NCBI genetic databases, such as the Taxonomy database (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/taxonomy/) All of the NCBI databases can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

For a complete listing of all the browser support changes starting in 2013 and trick and tips to resolve web page errors, go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/guide/browsers

Please contact your technology administrator for assistance with upgrading your browser(s).


PubMed Limits Are Now Filters

As you may have noticed, PubMed changed the way users limit search results. The link for “limits” has been replaced by a “filters” sidebar. This sidebar will function similarly to the way the limits page worked. For example, once filters/limits have been set, they will remain in place for all subsequent searches unless the user turns them off.

One difference users might notice is that filters will not show if they are unavailable or not applicable for a search. For example, if you run a search on a topic where there hasn’t been a meta-analysis done, the option to limit your search to meta-analyses will not be available.

A feature that should be used with caution is the “Text Availability” filter located prominently at the top of the filters bar. Remember that these filters are for people that do not have access to a health sciences library. Students, faculty, staff, residents and fellows of the University of Iowa should avoid these filters and use our InfoLink button instead (which is seen when you access the abstract view). This will ensure that high quality articles are not missed. Remember that University of Iowa affiliates can also take advantage of our free interlibrary loan service. http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/hardin/illa.html

To learn more, please check out this tutorial on NLM’s YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGs547njZ7U&feature=youtu.be, read NLM Technical Bulletin http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/techbull/mj12/mj12_pm_sidebar.html or feel free to contact Hardin Librarians a http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/hardin/contact.html


A Few Changes to Google Web Search

Google is frequently experimenting to enhance the search experience. But a recent change frustrated many users: the + operator was eliminated. This is how it worked: the searcher could use the + character after a term to find pages with the exact word in them. Now, it is suggested that instead of using the +, searchers should use quotation marks around a word to retrieve results with the exact word present. Example: instead of searching for Iowa +news, search Iowa “news.” In case you are curious, the – character still works to exclude words after it from  your search results. For example: Iowa – university would retrieve results with Iowa but exclude results with the word university. For many passionate comments and conversations about these changes, visit the following pages:

Wired Epicenter                     Search Engine Land                                 Google Help Forum

Another fairly recent change was the removal of the link on the front page to advanced search. Now the advanced search feature will display only after a search is performed. Or, the searcher cand navigate directly to  it by going to the top right side of the page, as shown below:

If you are wondering why you might bother using advanced search, consider that there are ways to narrow your search results to a more relevant group, and maybe even more importantly, a more manageable size. Check out the advanced search options to see which ones may help you!

For more hints on how to take advantage of other features of Google Web search, visit:

Google help pages                  Search Engine Land summary

Please contact your liaison librarian or the reference desk if you need more information on web or database search strategies.