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Dear PubMed Sage!

I have always wanted to write a Dear Abby type question and answer column! I find that the questions we receive about PubMed on a regular basis fit my need. So here goes. Names are omitted to protect the requestors. As librarians often say, there are no stupid questions.

To: PubMed Sage
Subject: Systematic analysis review classes

Do you know of any class that would teach how to analyze an article in depth, such as a systematic analysis class? I have not seen one for years (not to say decades), but if you don’t use it, you lose it…


Dear Searching,

No, I don’t know of any specific classes currently being taught. There are about a dozen courses mentioning Systematic Reviews in MLA’s Educational Clearinghouse. Try searching systematic reviews. Some of the classes link to materials for the classes, and you can often adapt those for learning more!

From the Clinical Queries page, there is a link to articles about strategies and clinical queries from the Technical Bulletin. Many of them mention systematic reviews, etc. I know reading articles isn’t as exciting as taking a class, but it is a start!

Also, PubMed Health, which promotes Clinical Effectiveness, might be a good place to check. The About page has some useful information.

PM Sage

Hello, PM Guru:

Question: my notes from a recent class session state that when you put an asterisk after a phrase, it forces PubMed to search it as an entire phrase, but I’m a little confused. My results include hits that did not keep the phrase intact. So are my notes incorrect, or are there subtleties I’m missing on a Friday afternoon?

(The examples below also include a date limit to the most recent 5 years and English language.)

1. “pleomorphic carcinoma in situ” yields 90 hits, using part of the phrase, but not always the entire phrase.
2. Pleomorphic carcinoma in situ* yields 55 hits, also using parts of the phrase, but not the entire phrase. Can’t easily pinpoint the difference in how PubMed treated it, other than the fact it yields fewer hits.


Dear Perplexed!

When is a phrase not a phrase, when PubMed says it isn’t a phrase. . .

pleomorphic carcinoma in situ” gave me 233 hits. Here are the Search Details:
pleomorphic[All Fields] AND (“carcinoma in situ”[MeSH Terms] OR (“carcinoma”[All Fields] AND “situ”[All Fields]) OR “carcinoma in situ”[All Fields])

There was a line that said, “Quoted phrase not found.” So PubMed did the best it could, but it did separate pleomorphic from the quoted phrase, and it also searched for most of carcinoma in situ in parts and as a phrase.

With pleomorphic carcinoma in situ* the details are:
pleomorphic[All Fields] AND (carcinoma in situ[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/analysis[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/blood[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/chemistry[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/classification[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/complications[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/congenital[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/diagnosis[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/economics[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/embryology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/enzymology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/epidemiology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/ethnology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/etiology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/genetics[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/high[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/history[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/immunology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/metabolism[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/microbiology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/mortality[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/nursing[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/parasitology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/pathology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/physiopathology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/psychology[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/radiography[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/radiotherapy[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/rehabilitation[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/secondary[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/secretion[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/surgery[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/therapy[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/transmission[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/ultrasonography[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/ultrastructure[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/urine[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/veterinary[All Fields] OR carcinoma in situ/virology[All Fields])

So basically PubMed took carcinoma in situ as a phrase, and searched for everything with pleomorphic as well. I got 138 hits. I didn’t limit either of the searches by date or language.

Does that make sense to you? So if it really is a phrase, PubMed will search for it; if it isn’t, PubMed will break it apart.

PM Guru

Dear Abbie, I mean, Kay,

Every time I enter a search in Clinical Queries I am kicked out to the PubMed home page. I have checked the URL, etc. Any suggestions on what is happening? Has anyone else reported this? This is the only function that does not work on my PubMed menu.


Dear Puzzled!

How are you getting to Clinical Queries? I tried via the PubMed home page, middle column, and through the Advanced Search Builder under More Resources, and I didn’t have a problem. I am using Internet Explorer, version 9. Be sure to check the Browser Advice for NCBI Web Pages. This page reviews the supported browsers and their versions, plus tips on errors and enabling cookies and other technical information.

[Final answer: the requester needed to upgrade her browser!]

More articles like this will be published in Latitudes! Thanks go to the librarians who submitted questions to me. If you have a question, feel free to email Kay!

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