Research in health field: selection of the main sources of access to scientific literature

Rosely de Fátima Pellizzon Dinah Aguiar Población Saul Goldenberg About the authors


Research in Health Field: selection of the main sources of access to scientific literature1 1 Paper accomplished at the Central Library of Universidade Federal de São Paulo _ Escola Paulista de Medicina (UNIFESP - EPM). Thanks a lot to Antonio Marcos Amorim for translating this article English.

Rosely de Fátima PellizzonI; Dinah Aguiar PoblaciónII; Saul GoldenbergIII

IChief Librarian in Reference Department of the Central Library UNIFESP - EPM and NCCC Researcher. E-mail:

IIPhD at the Communication and Arts School (ECA/USP). Coordinator and Chief of the Research of Scientific Production Center in the Information Sciences Department (NPC/ECA/USP). Vice Chief of the Research Group _ The Surgery' Scientific Communication Center at CNPq. CNPq's I-B Researcher. E-mail:

IIIHead Professor (pensioner) at Surgery Department of UNIFESP - EPM. SOBRADPEC's President. Leader of the Research Group - Scientific Communication in Surgery Center at CNPq and scientific editor of Rev. Acta Cir. Bras. e-mail:

Address for correspondence


The Surgery' Scientific Communication Center (NCCC)1, aims to investigate the generation and the use of scientific production in the health field.

The proposition of this article is to clarify the need of perfection, respect and attention that should be dedicated to the literature's thorough research, by not neglecting or omitting the predecessors, whether national or foreigners. The ways for the scientific information search pointed out by Monteiro and col.2 in all phases of the scientific work, are essential to guarantee the research planning. The SEARCH must be "careful for an elementary respect to the other professionals work and for the deeper knowledge of the subject. It is not time limited. It must be wide, profound and widespread followed by SELECTION, discerning, judicious and careful, by not forgetting about the national jobs and not overappreciating only the foreigners."3


"In Brazil, the bad habit of many Brazilian researchers who do not mention their Brazilian colleagues."4

"The Brazilian science was already compared to an iceberg. The national production is kept 80% submerged. The majority of these 80% of the Brazilian scientific production, are not submerged for the lack of quality. The international scientific community became to have interest for the problem of this base of the iceberg from the publication of Gibbs5 article that called Brazilian Science as the "Third World's lost science."6

We take over the commitment of fighting on behalf of the national and international scientific production with guidelines for accessibility of the main sources of primary, secondary information and integrated elements in the area of health.

Considering that an information source is any resource which replies a demand by users, including information and services products, people or people groups, computer programs, according to the VHL Guide 2003, the seven sources was selected by the largest part of the health area's researchers and that have been accesed by them.

1 - Primary sources

One must take into account primary documents those originated as first, from the point of view of the origin, with new or original information, in agreement to explicit definition at the ISO norm 5127/2-1983. Enlarging the comprehension of the different kinds of documents included in this primary documents type, Martin Vega8 cites beyond articles, monographs and the serial documents published entirely or parts of it like the chapters. In this same group it is also considered documents that incorporate information produced in all government, academic levels, business and industry, printed and electronic formats not controlled by commercial editors. Therefore, the difficult access, due to the unconventional distribution, compose the set of the "gray literature". These kinds of documents comprehend congresses and events annals, dissertations and thesis, scientific and technical reports, patents and other documents that are shown with complete informative process, without the need for requesting others works. These original data sources, hypertexts and numeric, regarded as sources of primary information, are generally re-organized with the purpose of concentrating the necessary information to be easily accessed. It generates the secondary sources of information.7

• SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

Online National journals

In December, 2003, SciELO introduces a list of 114 national journals of knowledge's several areas. In the Health area 40 journals (35%) are incorporated.

SciELO is a model for cooperative electronic publication of scientific journals in the Internet. It was developed specifically to respond to the needs of scientific communication in developing countries and particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. The model provides an efficient solution to assure the visibility and the universal access to its scientific literature, contributing to overcome the phenomenon known as "lost science". The SciELO model still contains integrated procedures to measure the use and the impact of its scientific journals. All the scientific journals available in SciELO can be accessed in the totality, free of charge, at the address

For larger information of the model you should have to access the site:

2 - Secondary sources

They offer information about primary documents and / or indicative of directories and constant services of primary sources. They include all the index, referential databases, directories, entities, events related to the area of health and information associated with these sources, as enrolls the VHL Guide 20037.


LILACS - Latin American and Caribbean Literature on the Health Sciences catalogues the scientific-technique literature in health produced by Latin American and Caribbean authors, and published since 1982. The main goals of this database are the bibliographical control and the dissemination of Latin American and the Caribbean scientific-technique literature in the Health area, absent from international databases.

In LILACS it is described and indexed: thesis, books, books chapters, congresses or conferences annals, technical reports, journals articles related to the Health field. The access is free through the website:


The most well-known database in medicine, MEDLINE is an international literature database of medical and biomedical area, produced by the NLM, National Library of Medicine, USA, which contains bibliographical references and summaries of 4.579 titles from biomedical journals published in the United States and in other 70 countries so far. It contemplates about 11 million literature records, since 1966, which cover the areas of medicine, biomedicine, nursery, odontology, veterinary and similar sciences. The first Index Medicus issue published was in 1879.

The access is free in the Internet, with a first interface in portuguese, since 1966, at the address or in english on the pre-Medline known as PubMed

To search information from 1953 to 1965, there is the database OldMedline:

The Medline indexes eighteen brazilian current journals only and a total of 53 in Latin America, that generates a non visibility of the 658 Latin-american journals indexed in Lilacs.

The non representativity of Latin-american journals was the reason for creating LILACS database.

(Electronic address:

• Cochrane Library

Metanalysis / Evidence-based Medicine

The Cochrane Library is the best information source of reliable evidence about the effects of health interventions.

The Cochrane Library consists of an up-to-date information sources collection about medicine based on evidences, including the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews - which are reviews prepared by the Cochrane Collaboration Groups and that offer high quality information for the health providers of health attention, as well as for the professionals attending in all levels public research, education and administration.

It is the conscientious, explicit and judicious utilization of the best evidence aiming at decision-making for the individual treatment of patients. It has the commitment to search the best scientific evidences of the medical literature, to be taken as a base for decisions about health care.

The access to the Cochrane Library through of the Virtual Health Library ( is available for all the health and information professionals of Latin America and the Caribbean, and it is a result of a contract signed between BIREME and Update Software (UK), with support from the Collaboration Cochrane and the Brazilian Cochrane Center (

The Cochrane Library in VHL includes the complete original version, with a link to the complete text of systematic reviews translated to spanish language, when available. All Cochrane's Databases can be searched through a three-language interface (Spanish Portuguese and English), developed by BIREME. It produces the results on CD-ROM in Cochrane Library published by British Medical Journal.

The Cochrane Library has quarterly issues and is up-to-dated on January, April, June and October.

The access to the Cochrane Library is free for individual users, as long as the user makes an online record in the user's electronic address to obtain the username and password (login). For institutions, the access is available, but controlled anonymously with automatic IP recognition of the user's computer.

• Embase - Medical Excerpta

Database produced by Elsevier Science, in Holland. It contains the literature of biomedical, medical, pharmacological and public health areas. It includes more than 4.000 titles of journals published in 70 countries, with about 450.000 new records every year. The Embase is a bibliographical database with european coverage since 1974 until now. The access is through subscription in the address:

(Electronic address: txt&conteudo=litbases-page.txt)

• PsycInfo

It is the most important database in the area of Psychology. It was developed by American Psychological Association _ APA. PsycInfo - as it is known in the Internet - gathers, organizes and announces relevant internationally literature published in the area of psychology and related disciplines. PsycInfo just brings summaries of psychology papers from 1800 until nowadays. The access to PsycInfo is controlled by subscription in the address, or from the computers controlled through IPs of institutions belonging to the CAPES consortium (

(Electronic address:

• Web of Science

It is a database produced by the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI), with information about published articles, starting from 1945, in about of 8.500 specialized journals, indexed by the ISI, in areas such as Sciences, Human and Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities). Summaries, references and author's citations of each article can be obtained. The Web of Science is accessible by subscription in the address, or starting from computers controlled through IPs of the institutions associated by CAPES consortium (

(Electronic address:

• Journal Citation Reports (JCR)

ISI (Institute of Scientific Information) offers a systematic and objective way to produce a critical evaluation of the world's most important journals. Available in the editions of Exact Sciences and Social Sciences, JCR® Web covers approximately 7.000 journals evaluated internally and most frequently cited in about of 200 disciplines. It is an essential tool for librarians, editors, writers, authors, teachers, students, information analysts and others who need to know about the impact and influence factors of the journals in the global community of researches. The access to JCR is by subscription in the address:

(Electronic address:

3 - Integrator component

It serves as a mean for integrating the searches in the internet databases. VHL Guide 20037

• DeCS - Health Sciences Descriptors

The adequate and authorized search to the keywords (keywords / unique terms).

The use of non authorized and internationally recognized terms will prevent the access to articles.

The structured and three-language vocabulary DeCS - Health Sciences Descriptors, was created by BIREME for the use in indexation of scientific journals' papers, books, annals of congresses, technical reports, and other kinds of materials, as well as in subjects' research and recovery of the scientific literature in the databases LILACS, MEDLINE and others.

It was developed from MeSH - Medical Subject Headings of the U. S. National Library of Medicine aiming at allowing the use of common terminology for research in three languages, providing a unique and consistent way for the recovery of the information regardless of the language.

Structured vocabularies can be used by a range of professionals users, including doctors, researchers, students, besides librarians who use them in the indexation of informations and recovery processes. The access is free at:

(Electronic address:

• Health Information Finder - LIS

The Health Information Locator - (LIS) is the portal of the Virtual Health Library (VHL) that contains a catalogue on health information sources available in the Internet and selected by quality criteria. It describes the content of these sources and offers links to it in the Internet.

The LIS Methodology is a result of technical cooperation between the Centro Nacional de Información de Ciencias Médicas (CNICM) in Cuba, the Red Telemática de Salud de Cuba (INFOMED) and BIREME. The access is free at: /I/define.xml&xsl=

(Electronic address: /I/define.xml&xsl=

The importance and the need for information search

On the one hand, health professional's need to update his / her knowledges. Besides that, and more importantly, the need of getting precise information and orientation that can help pacients, in cases of serious clinical cases.

On the other hand, the researcher who is going to publish your scientific contribution, must take into account the citations in the references, of national and corresponding journals articles, above all. That happens because the indexers calculates the impact factor, from the division of the number of times that papers of the journal are cited, by the number of published articles in each two years.

One must stress that the national publications' impact factor is very small due to few national authors' citations. The wider the impact factor is, the larger the journal importance in the academic world and in research' postgraduation foment agencies.6

Do not "forget about" the national works / papers and to do not overvalue only the foreign researches.3

In the next issues of Acta Cirurgica Brazilian journal, tools of how to search / retrieve information in each database mentioned above, but only in that all have access by Internet freely. Besides this, more practical exercises will be shown. Stages were planned with the following sequence:

1 - DeCS (Descriptors in Health Sciences);

2 - LILACS - Latin American and Caribbean Literature on the Health Sciences;

3 - Medline;

4 - Cochrane Library;

5 - SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online;

6 - LIS - Health Information Locator

We all hope that our contribution is helpful to make the searching is easily in these databases.

Thanks by the support and collaboration

Maria Elisa Rangel Braga - Central Library Director - UNIFESP / EPM.


2 - LILACS - Literatura Latino-americana e do Caribe em Ciências da Saúde ;

  • E-mail Address:
    Rosely de Fátima Pellizzon
  • Receiving date: 19/09/2003

    Revision date: 05/10/2003

    Approval date: 22/10/2003

  • 1
    Paper accomplished at the Central Library of Universidade Federal de São Paulo _ Escola Paulista de Medicina (UNIFESP - EPM).
    Thanks a lot to Antonio Marcos Amorim for translating this article English.
  • E-mail Address: Rosely de Fátima Pellizzon 1 Paper accomplished at the Central Library of Universidade Federal de São Paulo _ Escola Paulista de Medicina (UNIFESP - EPM). Thanks a lot to Antonio Marcos Amorim for translating this article English.

    Publication Dates

    • Publication in this collection
      16 June 2009
    • Date of issue
      Dec 2003
    Sociedade Brasileira para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Cirurgia Al. Rio Claro, 179/141, 01332-010 São Paulo SP Brazil, Tel./Fax: +55 11 3287-8814 - São Paulo - SP - Brazil