OM blog - Google vs. PubMed?

Submitted by Dean Giustini on June 6, 2007 - 05:05

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As a medical librarian, I am often asked to comment about what to use, Google or PubMed? My recommendation is always to learn how to use both - but keep in mind that they are vastly different tools, with different benefits and limitations. Doctors should know what some of those are given their information needs.

When do you use Google? Google is great for many types of searching activities. First, it's a great browsing tool, for looking up quick facts and finding a quick article. Powerful and fast, Google searches across the Web -- about 100,000,000,000 (billion) pages! -- in less than a second. That's impressive by any search standard. While large in size, Google is not complete - no where near it. For a more accurate view of medicine, you are better off searching PubMed; it is more accurate, tightly-focussed and filters using proper indexing and evidence-based principles.

Other problems with Google and Google scholar? Search results in Google are based on popularity, with some of the most relevant results located many screens down from the first. That's a problem if you have limited time to sift through results. While Google and Google scholar point to PubMed citations, don't be fooled - the only way to find relevant medical research is to search PubMed properly. Think of Google as a supplement not a replacement for PubMed, ever.

Use Google and other search tools with care, the same care you use in other aspects of your practice. Finding the best evidence in medicine is an important skill, so if you need to learn how to do that - I encourage you to consult a qualified medical librarian in your local hospital library, or university library.

OK, you can e-mail me, also.

Dean Giustini, OM blogger

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.


I encourage you to try one of the 100 alternative tops search engines running “furious pace of innovation”.

GoPubMed allows to significantly faster find information needed through the use of background knowledge.


  • retrieves PubMed abstracts for your search query,
  • detects terms from the Gene Ontology (GO) and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) in the abstracts,
  • displays the subset of the GO and MeSH relevant to the keywords, and
  • allows you to browse the ontologies and display only papers containing specific GO and MeSH terms.

One of our goals is to provide simpler and more precise findings relevant to
biological and medical information in literature. When medical doctors and
biologist do research they have questions in mind. Classical search engines retrieve documents, GoPubMed answers questions!

GoPubMed gives answers using two of the most innovative features available: the knowledge bases GO and MeSH and the “Hot Topics” feature. Hot Topics is a platform providing various statistics on biomedical literature based on over 16 millions PubMed abstracts.

If you want to explore Internet, a search engine for the web which sort results by GO and MeSH is included in GoPubMed.

This is more than just searching keywords in abstract! Give it a try.

We appreciate your feedback!
Dr. Liliana Barrio-Alvers, CTO, Transinsight

Google and PubMed search vastly different content. Google primarily searches the "free Web". Internet Detective [] describes it well:

Think about it - the Internet links millions of computers:

  • Anyone can put something on the Internet - an amateur or an expert
  • From anywhere in the World - be it the United Kingdom or Uruguay
  • They can say anything they like - be it true or false
  • And leave it there as long as they like - even if it goes out of date
  • Or change it without warning - perhaps even remove it completely

There is a danger that the information you find on the Internet will:

  • Be from a source that is unreliable, lacking in authority or credibility
  • Have content that is invalid, inaccurate, out-of-date
  • Not be what it seems!

Is that the kind of information a health care professional should be using in their educational, reseach or patient care activities? Absolutely not!