Review Update: Embase
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Alysha Sapp, MLIS
Nursing and Nurse Anesthesia Librarian
Mary Couts Burnett Library
Texas Christian University


 Embase (Excerpta Medica dataBASE), often referred to as the European MEDLINE, is purely an indexing database. As described on the EMBASE website, it is a biomedical and pharmacological database with over 32 million abstracts and indices from published, peer-reviewed biomedical literature, in-press publications, and conferences. Full-text indexing of drug, disease, and medical device data is supported by the Embase thesaurus Emtree, which facilitates precise searching. It provides 32 million-plus records from more than 8,500 currently published journals from over 95 countries. Embase includes six million-plus records and more than 2,900 journals that are not covered by MEDLINE. In addition, Embase Classic provides access to data going back to 1947.

This updated review will touch on the newest features available in Embase since my original review was published:

The most current list (2017) of journal titles covered in EMBASE is available at

New Features

This section covers all new Embase features introduced after my original review was published on December 22, 2015.


  • PICO Search: Embase has added the PICO (population, intervention, comparison, and outcome) feature to their list of search options. For the best use of this feature, type your keywords under the heading Find best term and then select the best option from the Emtree provided list. When you find your term, hover over the best term, and a pop-up will appear that says Add to query +, this is called a token. The term will be added to your search and there will be other unique features that are available for that term. If you click on the drop-down menu next to your selected term, you will see that the database is searching As broad as possible /br automatically, but you can change your term to search using Explosion /exp, Index term /de, or Major focus /mj. Results will vary based on choice selected. Embase elected to include the numbers of articles retrieved with every option. Once the Emtree term is added, a gray token will be available so that you can add some or all of the synonyms mentioned in the Emtree heading. Added synonyms are added in the All :all field automatically, or search Title or abstract :ti,ab, Abstract :ab, or Title :ti. There is also the search option in the individual search query lines, where a researcher can either select the option for an orange bulleted Emtree term or a free term (a term that has no Emtree phrases available) if the Emtree term is unavailable. While the search terms are being added, the number of results appears in the bottom right of the page. Select Show # results to see the results based on the keywords/terms selected. The Boolean Operator ‘OR’ will automatically be used to separate synonyms.
  • PV Wizard: Another new feature that Embase recently added to their search features is PV Wizard also known as Pharmacovigilance. Pharmacovigilance is defined as the science and activities concerned with detection, assessment, understanding, and prevention of adverse reactions to medicines. PV Wizard is searched using the same standards as the PICO search above. Once you have selected a Drug name, you can either Show # results or click Next step. This will give you the option to select and add Alternative drug names to your search. These are automatically added, so either deselect All (with the radial button) or individual variants of a term. If the variants do not meet the criteria selected, select +Add more alternative drug names and add free terms that meet the criteria. The variants are automatically searched in Tradename, title or abstract :tn, ti, ab, but there are other fields available to select, such as All Fields :all, Tradename or title :tn, ti, or Tradename :tn. The Next step gives the option to add the Adverse drug reactions to the search results. A preselected set of drug reactions and field codes are given, but they are easy to change or interchange. The next step provides a sizable list of Special situations from which to choose. Special situations could be pregnancy, diabetes, patient compliance, etc. It is best to select the options that apply to the criteria selected, delete the other options and continue to the Next step. The next option is Human limit, select from one of the options given: ‘human’/exp or human or m?n OR wom?n OR child OR boy OR girl or clear the query and either Find best term or manually add them in. Then click on the option Show # results to find the best results based on the features selected.
  • Author Search: Originally, the database only provided an author search under the Browse feature. Since the Browse feature is no longer available, the Author search has been added to the list of Search options. The options to be searched are: Author last name, Author first name, Affiliation, First name initials, or ORCID ID Number.

Search Results

  • Similar records: This feature was added at the same time as Index miner and the new author search, around September 2017. The feature is intended to give the user 100 other articles that “might” be similar to the article found.
  • Index Miner: This option will allow the user to see the full list of indexed terms in the result set, and select from the indexed terms used to catalogue the data to further expand the search. This is very similar to the ‘Search within results for…’ feature that is available in Web of Science, but much more robust, as it allows users to select from indexed terms.


Embase is still an essential feature in our Center of Evidence Based Practice and Research. The newest features help to add to that relevance.

The PICO Search feature and the PV Wizard increase the relevancy and rigor of the database, raising the already high standard to a level that few other databases are able to achieve.


  • There is no longer a browse feature or a need for one
  • Truncation within phrased searching
  • Autosuggest features
  • Results retain entered parentheses
  • 0/1 character wildcard
  • My personal favorite: Search history automatically renumbers if an entry is deleted

Needs Improvement

  • Similar Records. It seems unnecessary to automatically offer up a flat 100 results. The amount of results should be based on the actual amount of articles similar to the cited article. Also, the results returned, even within Relevance ranking, are not relevant. Further, the Similar Records feature almost never matches my original search criteria. Embase should look at the options for similar records through Science Direct, another product offered by Elsevier.
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1 Comment

  1. A Osenga May 22, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    Alysha Sapp,

    Thank you for this excellent review and tutorial. I have opportunity to search Embase occasionally but not often enough to become proficient. Your review/tutorial will save me the step of re-orienting myself the next time broadening a search to include Embase results is important.

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