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MEDLINE®: Description of the Database

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MEDLINE is the U.S. National Library of Medicine® (NLM) premier bibliographic database that contains more than 26 million references to journal articles in life sciences with a concentration on biomedicine. A distinctive feature of MEDLINE is that the records are indexed with NLM Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®). MEDLINE is the online counterpart to MEDLARS® (MEDical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System) that originated in 1964.

The great majority of journals are selected for MEDLINE based on the recommendation of the Literature Selection Technical Review Committee (LSTRC), an NIH-chartered advisory committee of external experts analogous to the committees that review NIH grant applications. Some additional journals and newsletters are selected based on NLM-initiated reviews, e.g., history of medicine, health services research, AIDS, toxicology and environmental health, molecular biology, and complementary medicine, that are special priorities for NLM or other NIH components. These reviews generally also involve consultation with an array of NIH and outside experts or, in some cases, external organizations with which NLM has or had special collaborative arrangements.

MEDLINE is the primary component of PubMed®, part of the Entrez series of databases provided by the NLM National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Time coverage: MEDLINE includes literature published from 1966 to present, and selected coverage of literature prior to that period. See OLDMEDLINE Data for coverage details about the pre-1966 citations that are not comprehensive for that time period.

Source: Currently, citations from more than 5,200 worldwide journals in about 40 languages; about 60 languages for older journals.

Updates: Citations are added to PubMed 7 days a week. More than 956,390 citations were added to MEDLINE in 2019. Updates are suspended for two weeks during November as NLM makes the transition to a new year of Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) vocabulary used to index the articles.

Broad subject coverage: The subject scope of MEDLINE is biomedicine and health, broadly defined to encompass those areas of the life sciences, behavioral sciences, chemical sciences, and bioengineering needed by health professionals and others engaged in basic research and clinical care, public health, health policy development, or related educational activities. MEDLINE also covers life sciences vital to biomedical practitioners, researchers, and educators, including aspects of biology, environmental science, marine biology, plant and animal science as well as biophysics and chemistry. Increased coverage of life sciences began in 2000.

The majority of the publications covered in MEDLINE are scholarly journals; a small number of newspapers, magazines, and newsletters considered useful to particular segments of the NLM broad user community are also included. For citations published in 2010 or later, over 40% are for cited articles published in the U.S., about 93% are published in English, and about 85% have English abstracts written by authors of the articles.

Availability: MEDLINE is the primary component of PubMed (//; a link to PubMed is found on the NLM homepage (// The result of a MEDLINE/PubMed search is a list of citations (including authors, title, source, and often an abstract) to journal articles and an indication of free electronic full-text availability. Searching is free of charge and does not require registration.

A growing number of MEDLINE citations contain a link to the free full text of the article archived in PubMed Central® or to other sites. You can also link from many MEDLINE references to the Web site of the publisher or other full text provider to request or view the full article, depending upon the publisher's access requirements.

Access to MEDLINE data are also available via services and products developed by organizations that download the database from NLM.  Access to various MEDLINE services is often available from medical libraries, many public libraries, and commercial sources.

MedlinePlus®, another service offered by the NLM, provides consumer-oriented health information. Health consumers are encouraged to discuss search results with their health care provider.

For further information about MEDLINE contact NLM customer service or call toll-free 1-888-346-3656. For the nearest local medical library in your area contact the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) at 1-800-338-7657.

Related Publications and Resources:

See also the MEDLINE/PubMed Resources Guide.

Sample Record: PubMed Abstract display

Sample PubMed record in abstract display

Sample Record: PubMed MEDLINE display

Sample PubMed record in MEDLINE display



Last Reviewed: August 11, 2020