Skip to Main Content
The UC San Diego Library is closed December 23, 2023 - January 2, 2024. Access to online resources remains available.

PBL Information Resources and Tools for the First Year: Background Info Resources

This guide provides resources and strategies for finding background, clinical and drug information, including evidence-based medicine strategies and specific information for problem-based learning exercises.


Looking for basic - or background - information on a topic is best done in textbooks or other resources that compile the known and standard information into a single resource.  For example, if you need to know more about what Graves' disease is or what the usuall treatment is, an article search probably will not help as much looking it up in a textbook (either print or our online books) or some of our synthesized resources (Medscape, UptoDate).

Online Textbooks

Online Books & Textbook Collections

In most cases, when searching in these resources one word or phrase is better than a long question or multiple concepts. 

Synthesized Resources

These resources are more clinically focused but can be used also like an encyclopedia about some topics.

Lab Tests Info

Looking up information about the results of lab tests are mostly background questions.  The following resources are easy to use tools to find very reliable information about the normal values, reference ranges, and more.

DDX & Symptom Checker Resources

Symptoms & DDX Resources

Symptoms and differential diagnositic information is often buried in a number of our resources.  However, a few tools (both online and for your smart phone/PDA) have special tools to help with this process.

Dr. Gates has found a very helpful text within Access Medicine - Symptoms to Diagnosis: An Evidence Based Guide.  Presented through a series of cases of patients complaining of a specific issue, then walks you through buiding the DDX and prioritizing it, and making the diagnosis.  Unlike the interactive tools that give you list, this text helps explain the thinking process. Topics include a variety of non-specific complaints from low back pain to weight loss to GI bleeding, to abdominal pain.  Check out Chapter 1 as an overview of the diagnostic process.  

The books we have include one that helps explain the thinking process (Symptom to Diagnosis) with topics that include a variety of non-specific complaints from low back pain to weight loss to GI bleeding, to abdominal pain.  One book has a list of mnemonics (Collins' book) as well as the symptom info.  Another book (Syed & Rasul's book) is organized by body areas and the last one (DDX of Common Complaints) focuses on the most common symptions and presents the way a doctor might pursue to diagnosis (images & tests).

Isabel - is an up and coming tool that is starting to be integrated into the EMR environment.  This free version should be very helpful for many look ups.

Also listed below are some of the interactive DDX tools and their advantages.

Online Look-up Tools


DDX Checker Tools

From home grown tools to mnemonics.

Genetics Resources - Freely Available to Health Professionals

Free Resources to Know for Life Beyond UCSD

The following resources are available to everyone without a subscription and for the most part have been developed with government funding.  These tools will be available to you even when you graduate and move on from UCSD. 

Genetics Resources at UC San Diego