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Medline: PubMed vs. Ovid: Comparison

A comparison of two different ways to access Medline.

PubMed is a huge database that includes the entire Medline database. Medline is available through PubMed and through other companies. At MCPHS, we access Medline through both PubMed and through Ovid. Although the content is the same, you will see some differences between the two versions.

Responsibility

PubMed

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) creates both Medline and PubMed. PubMed is the NLM's own interface for Medline (and other content).

Ovid

Ovid licenses Medline (and other content) from the NLM.

Access

PubMed

Freely available

Ovid

Requires a subscription

Currency

PubMed

Includes records as soon as the NLM creates them.

Ovid

Has a slight delay. Ovid must wait for the NLM to send the records.

Complexity

PubMed

PubMed is complex. You can search it in many different ways, from many different search boxes.

Ovid

Ovid has fewer search boxes. It is simpler to use.

Explicitness

PubMed

PubMed attempts to save you time.

When you search for MeSH terms:

  • PubMed displays a lot of information at once so that you can quickly select what you need.
  • PubMed assumes that you want to automatically explode your search to include the more specific MeSH terms as well as the broad term you selected.

When you type a word or phrase directly into the regular search box, PubMed will attempt to find the most closely matching MeSH term but will also search for different combinations of your words as keywords.

Once you apply a limit or filter, PubMed will automatically apply it to all your later searches until you clear the filters or lose your search history.

Ovid

Ovid forces you to think through your search strategy carefully.

When you search for MeSH terms:

  • Ovid presents one step at a time. You need to click through every screen to get what you want.
  • Ovid assumes that you only want to search for the MeSH term you selected. You need to select the "explode" box next to that term if you want to also include the more specific terms.

When you type a word or phrase directly into the regular search box, Ovid will either attempt to suggest MeSH terms OR will give you the option to search for that word or phrase as a keyword exactly as you wrote it.

Ovid only applies limits / filters to specific searches. New searches you run will not be limited / filtered.

Ease of Limiting / Filtering

PubMed

PubMed displays only a few limits / filters by default. If you want to use any limit/filter that is not automatically displayed, you must click to select different types of categories, click to select which options in those categories you want to see, and then actually select the ones you want to apply to your search.

Ovid

Ovid displays a handful of common limits / filters right away. To use those common filters, select the one(s) you want and click "Search." If you want to use anything else, you must click on "Additional Limits," select the one(s) you want to apply, and click "Limit A Search."

Advanced Search Features

PubMed

You can use NOT. (We do not recommend using NOT for most searches; there are better ways to narrow your results.)

Ovid

Adjacency searching. In Ovid, you can type term1ADJ# term2 to find articles where term1 appears up to # words before or after term2. (Deselect "map term to subject heading" to use this feature.) For example, "prescription Adj2 plan" will find articles with "prescription plan," "plan prescription," and "prescription drug plan."

Persistency

PubMed

PubMed will remember the most recent 100 lines in your search history for up to 8 hours of inactivity. If you use the same browser on the same computer and do not clear your browser's history/cookies/cache or clear your PubMed search history, your search will still be there.

Ovid

Ovid has no known limit to the number of searches in your search history.

Our version of Ovid times out after 20 minutes of inactivity. You will need to log back in to continue searching and you will need to restart your search.

Mobile Access

PubMed

You can use PubMed Mobile (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/m/pubmed/ ) online or download PubMed for Handhelds (https://pubmedhh.nlm.nih.gov/ ) to your iOS device or your Android device. Both options have limited capabilities.

Ovid

Ovid does not provide a mobile-friendly version of Medline.

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