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Embase Help Guide

Guide to searching Embase, a biomedical database focused on drugs and pharmacology, medical devices, clinical medicine, and basic sciences relevant to clinical medicine.

What is Embase?

Embase logo: link to Embase

Embase is a biomedical database that focuses on drugs and pharmacology, medical devices, clinical medicine, and basic science relevant to clinical medicine. It provides access to bibliographic citations to more than 8,500 biomedical journal articles from over 95 countries. It also contains over 2.4 million conference abstracts indexed from more than 7,000 conferences dating from 2009 to the present, and full-text indexing of drug, disease, and medical device data. It has especially strong coverage on drug trials. Over 1.5 million records are added yearly, with an average of over 6,000 each day.

Embase overall combines three databases:

  • Embase from Elsevier: biomedical literature from 1974 to present
  • Embase Classic: The Embase back file covering almost 2 million biomedical and pharmacological citations drawn from over 3,000 international titles from between 1947 and 1973.
  • MEDLINE: 1966-present (same as MEDLINE in PubMed)

Access Embase from the Health Sciences Library or UW Libraries websites to see icons showing full-text availability.

Why use Embase, and when?

Embase and PubMed both cover biomedical literature and overlap in their coverage. However, each has unique elements and strengths that the other does not:

PubMed Embase


  • More nursing and dentistry coverage than Embase
  • Includes PubMed Central (PMC)
    • free to read without subscription
    • NIH-funded research that isn't in MEDLINE
  • Very recent MEDLINE-eligible material that has not yet been indexed
  • citations to non-medical life sciences journals and some ebooks


  • More non-US coverage than PubMed
  • Includes MEDLINE and more
  • Deeper focus on drugs, pharmacology, and medical devices



  • Advanced Search with guided mapping of keywords to Emtree (Embase subject terms)
  • All articles are indexed
  • More drug terms in Emtree
    • generics and brand names
    • updated more frequently than MeSH
  • More extensive limiting options available, including types of EBM, clinical trials & routes of drug administration.
  • Special searches:
    • PICO form
    • Drug/Medical Device/Disease forms
  • Proximity searching (like phrase searching but more flexible)


  • Free to search, regardless of UW status
  • Share search results and citation lists with free MyNCBI account



Why use Embase?

  • If you need to do a comprehensive search, as for a systematic or scoping review. Even though there is some overlap, the indexing and search grammar is different than other databases so you are likely to get results unique to each.
  • If you are searching on drug/pharmacy topics, which are very well supported in Embase.
  • If you are searching on very recent concepts: Emtree is updated more frequently than MeSH terms.
  • If you are looking for articles published outside the US. Some regions emphasize different fields of research; for example, Europe and cancer.
  • If you find it an easier interface for developing your search of the biomedical literature!

What's in this Guide

Use the tabs near the top of the page to navigate through the pages of this guide. Tabs are available for:

  • Run a Search provides step-by-step instructions for running a search in Embase, including inputting search terms, using filters to limit your search by language, ages, and other common topics, viewing your results, printing/saving/emailing your citations, and how to find the full-text of articles and order copies if needed.
  • Find Full Text lists steps to follow to get a complete journal article from a PubMed citation.
  • Managing Results and Searches
    • Export Citations to Citation Managers such as EndNote, Zotero, and Mendeley
    • Save searches and results in Embase
    • Email or export your search history and results
  • FAQ
  • There are Watch Video icons throughout the guide. Click these to see an instructional video on the subject.

Embase Quick Reference Guide

For comprehensive Embase help see the Embase Support Center or click the ? link at the top right of Embase pages. In Advanced, Drug, Disease, or Device search, click on Search Tips for a chart of quick search-building information, such as Boolean operators and truncation/wildcard symbols. Video tutorials are available through the Support Center.