Literature searches are an essential part of the research process and begin with index databases. Each discipline has its own set of indexes, though there can be overlap among them. Coverage includes discipline-specific journals, conference proceedings, dissertations, and books. Indexes are an efficient way to browse the body of published material both primary and secondary, and quickly identify articles of interest. The most often used indexes for population research cover social and biological sciences.


Social Sciences

With the exception of POPLine the social science indexes listed here are fee-based (subscription) databases and are usually available through college and university libraries. Access to POPLine is available to everyone via The Info Project website. All four databases can be searched by the usual methods of author, title, journal, subject term, or keyword.


Example search terms by social sciences database:

Accessing UNC-Chapel Hill library databases

American Economic Association


Info Project


American Psychological Association

Sociological Abstracts



Public health

Bacterial and fungal diseases


Clinical research

Data collection

Genetic technics

Immunologic factors

Laboratory procedures

Laboratory examinations and diagnoses


Reproductive tract infections

Research methodology

Sexually transmitted diseases


Biological markers


Body fluid




Health behavior




Blood pressure

Demography and human biology

Genetics Health problems

Human body



The use of biomarkers in population research has been limited in the past but is currently on the increase. For this reason population literature indexes are not yet a major source for articles about the topic, but should still be checked. More productive sources for biomarker-related citations are found in the biological sciences.


Biological Sciences

Because its focus is on medicine the best tool to identify population-related biomarker research articles is MEDLINE.  Publically accessible through the Pubmed portal, MEDLINE is the premier database of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Subsidized by the US government, PubMed use is unrestricted and free of charge. Other science discipline indexes such as BIOSIS Previews and Science Citation Index (SCI) can also be used to identify population-related biomarker research. BIOSIS Previews coverage includes traditional biology and SCI can be used to learn about research trends, who is being cited, and in which publications. As with the social sciences sources mentioned earlier these fee-based electronic databases are available through many university libraries. 

Differences between MEDLINE and BIOSIS Previews

MEDLINE Features

Most MEDLINE records provide citation information, abstracts, subject terms (MeSH), and when available links to full text from PubMed Central. When affiliated with a medical facility or university links to related articles, and full text from subscription databases, when available, are also included.

Differences between MEDLINE and PubMed

Searching MEDLINE

Usually the most productive and efficient searching is done by using NLM's special terminology known as MeSH (Medical Subject Headings). MeSH is a hierarchical set of terms and allows for either broad or specific searching. That said, there is not a one-size-fits-all MeSH term for biomarkers. Also, the absence of a MeSH term for biomarkers in an article's indexing does not indicate an article NOT about biomarkers. In these cases it is helpful to consider other search strategies such as author or keyword. If such searches yield promising results, utilize their MeSH terms for additional searches.


PubMed Portal
Instant Searches
Blood spots, 2009, latest 25 citations
Stress, 2009, latest 25 citations
Saliva, 2009, latest 25 citations   

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Search PubMed:Search Tips for PubMed from theUNC Health Sciences Library.


MeSH terms suitable for biomarker-related searches could include but are not limited to...

Analysis of Variance
Antibodies, Viral/blood

Biological Markers
Blood Banks
Blood Chemical Analysis
Blood Circulation
Blood Specimen Collection

Chromosome Aberrations
Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone

DNA Damage
DNA Mutational Analysis

Environmental Exposure
Environmental Pollutants
Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay/methods*
Epidemiology, Molecular

Genetic Screening


Immunoenzyme Techniques
Inflammation Mediators

Luminescent Measurements
Lysosomal Storage Diseases/*diagnosis

Mouth Mucosa
Mutagenicity Tests

Occupational Exposure*

Polymerase Chain Reaction
Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
Pregnancy Complications/blood
Pregnancy Complications, Infectious/blood

Quality Control

Risk factors

Sensitivity and Specificity
Specimen Handling
Stress, Psychological


Vaginosis, Bacterial/blood



A current list of authors of biomarker related articles can include but is not limited to:


Beskow LM

Bonassi S

Cordovado SK

DeMarini DM

Fenech M

Finch CE

Garcia-Closas M

Hankinson SE

Holland NT

Miller MG

O'Murcheartaigh CA

Phillips DH

Ransohoff DF

Rojas E

Samyn N

Savitz DA

Sen B

Spooner N

Toscano WA

Tworoger SS

Vaupel JW

Webb PM





Since the use of biomedical specimens is not yet common in population research most journal sources will be bioscience in nature. As biomarker use becomes a standard in population research, social sciences journals will become a more relevant source. Journals covering biomarkers topics can include but are not limited to...

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