Is it possible to search the scientific medical literature (journals, textbooks), in the same way we typically search the broader internet with common search engines? Is there a website that can do this? Or would I need to physically go to a medical school library? Or do I need to pay for the ability?

Obviously, when you have a medical question, the easiest thing to do is usually to ask a doctor. But in some cases I'd like to do my own research as well. Today my question happens to be: "Can statins cause atrial flutter?". I'm aware of some articles say that statins might prevent cardiac arrhythmias, but I wanted to learn more, to see if it's possible they might cause them in rare patients.

Anyway, this is the kind of oddball research that a typical doctor is not going to do for me. I'm looking for pointers on how someone with some background in college biology and chemistry can start digging and do deeper research on their own.

  • 1
    You could try pubmed.gov and Google Scholar.
    – Thomas
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 23:20

1 Answer 1


I second Thomas' suggestion of pubmed.gov! Below are some details of my favorite sources for this kind of thing.

NOTE - It can definitely be tricky to find reliable sources that aren't behind a paywall using databases, but once you know a specific article you can often chuck the citation into regular google to find a free version. If you can't find a specific article that you really want to read, you can always reach out to one or more of the authors; (in most cases) they can legally send you a copy for free and many will.


  • Run by National Library of Medicine (VERY reliable)
  • Citations for 30 million+ journal articles and textbooks
  • User-friendly searching
  • Usually free abstract
  • Usually links to full article (though many links lead behind a paywall)

Cochrane Library

  • Run by the same company as Cochrane Reviews, pretty much the gold standard in review articles
  • Search journal articles and/or Cochrane Reviews
    • In reviews, experts look all the literature available on the subject and write a summary about what the literature says as a whole. I like this because you're less likely to be led astray by a single study, which might contradict dozens of other, better-designed studies.
  • For reviews, usually have the citation, a free abstract, and a free plain-language summary of the findings
  • Full articles are (usually) behind a paywall


  • Run by National Library of Medicine
  • Search a broad range of sources:
    • FDA medication summaries (here's the one for statins, for example)
    • Online articles from reliable, but not peer-reviewed, sources (e.g., an article from the Mayo Clinic on Rhabdomyolosis and Statins)
    • Information on ongoing clinical trials (obligatory statin example)
    • etc.
  • All free!

Merck Manual, Professional and Consumer Editions

  • This is the online version of the print dictionaries Merck has produced for decades. My grandfather, a research-enthusiast primary care doctor, was a HUGE fan
    • Extremely reliable
    • Reflects actual current recommendations; recent journal publications don't always reflect how things are done "in the real world"
  • Thousands of pages explaining diseases and medications, plus clinical calculators, reference values (e.g. for bloodwork)
  • The Professional Edition is more science-y, but you don't need to be an MD to understand most of it. The Consumer Edition is very easy to understand.
  • I write fiction as a hobby, and I use this all the time as a quick reference for pretty much anything related to health and medicine
  • I also find this to be the most user-friendly, and they have a pretty nice iOS app
  • All free!

If you're really looking for original research, Pubmed and Cochrane Library are your best bets.

If you're looking for free, reliable info that isn't necessarily from original research articles, MedlinePlus and Merck Manual will serve you well.

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