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Clinical Clerkships Resources: Background Information

Resources for UC San Diego School of Medicine's third year medical students.

Background Resources


Textbooks (especially our collections of online texts) are great places to start answering the basic questions - specifically ones that are very general or broad in scope, or the answer is really general knowledge (within that field).  You will notice that these types of questions do not really break down into the PICO format because they are so general.  A disadvantage of textbooks is that the answer may not be quickly found because your question is so broad you have to really hunt for what you want.  Online books make searching easier.

Access Medicine

 therapy, diagnosis, prevention, prognosis

Content: Umbrella site for key textbooks like Harrison's, Hurst's the Heart, MMBID, and many in the Lange clinical and basic science series Use: search one or through all textbooks to check facts or do a quick look-up for general or background information

Synthesized Literature

These information tools fit both background queries and clinical questions.  For a background question, their encyclopedic format lends itself well to giving the bigger picture about a specific topic and the informaiton is often presented in an easy-to-scan manner.  Disadvandages are the possible limitations of scope of the tool (it takes time for experts to pull the info together), and that drilling into a specific tidbit of information may take some time to scan through all the text.  eMedicine's format with bullet points makes it a bit easier to scan than Up to Date, but Up to Date may have more topics covered than eMedicine.


 etiology, diagnosis, prevention, therapy


Content: Review summaries on a wide variety of conditions, and often includes pictures, charts, and graphs.

Use: Helpful for locating articles on medical conditions that are easy-to-read paragraphs by physicians practicing in a variety of specialties.

Need to create a free account to use.



 etiology, diagnosis, prevention, therapy

Content: Concise, peer-reviewed, referenced topical summaries in internal medical focusing on diagnosis and treatment.

Use: For high quality peer-reviewed answers to specific questions. Searching is very easy. Good graphics. Updated quarterly.