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    Healthcare information for patients and their friends*
Gerstein health and science image collage Gerstein Science Information Centre
9 King's College Circle Toronto  ON M5S 1A5   416.978.2280
University of Toronto Crest
   ask.gerstein@utoronto.ca    Site guide*
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Healthcare information for patients and their friends


The Gerstein Science Information Centre is designed to help people help themselves. Information Desk staff are available to assist you initially by giving general directions and brief instructions in the use of some reference publications and online databases. However, you will conduct the search yourself.


An Online tutorial is also available. Staff may also refer you to another library, such as the Consumer Health Information Centre at Yonge & Bloor, or an organization for additional information.


CHN (the Canadian Health Network) and MEDLINEplus are also useful starting points for internet resources on medical and health topics.

Here are the steps explained on this page:

Get a good start


Define your terms


Find a summary


Seek an organization


Try a book


Search for journal articles


Get a good start

Be prepared to spend two or more hours identifying the information you want to look at, consulting it and making copies. Check the library hours before coming.


Plan to identify the material in online library catalogues and databases and to locate it on the shelves yourself. Effective use of the catalogue and journal databases will require you to spend some time becoming familiar with them. There is a limited number of computer terminals for the public; ask at the desk for their location.


Be aware that material may be borrowed by those who have a University of Toronto library card. Alumni and members of the public may apply for cards at the Robarts Library.


You can purchase a photocopy card here. It is helpful to have small bills, loonies and change with you. Our bill changer will provide coins for $5, $10 and $20 bills only. Photocopy cards cost $5.00 (for a blank card) and value can be added to the cards for copying and printing purposes.

Define your terms

Start your search by defining your terms. Use a medical dictionary to look up the disease or condition you are searching for and to get a brief description of it. This step will also alert you to synonyms and to correct and alternate spellings which you may need to use in the next step of your information search.

Ask at the Gerstein Information Desk for these dictionaries:

Print Dictionaries:

American Heritage Stedman's medical dictionary


Dorland's illustrated medical dictionary


Dictionary of medical syndromes

Electronic dictionaries:

The On-line Medical Dictionary


MEDLINEplus dictionary


Find a summary

Use some of the dictionaries(listed above), subject encyclopedias and quick reference publications listed below to find summarized information on your topic. They may provide all of the information you require.

Ask at the Gerstein Information Desk for these publications:

Print Publications: Drug Information

Canadian Medical Association guide to prescription and over-the-counter drugs


Compendium of pharmaceuticals and specialties


Drugs of choice

Print Publications: Quick Reference Publications

Canadian Medical Association home medical encyclopedia


Consumer health USA: essential information from the federal health network.
This publication duplicates the text of 151 pamphlets about illnesses, infections, diseases and other health conditions produced for consumers by U.S. federal agencies.


Current medical diagnosis & treatment


Griffith's 5 minute clinical consult


Merck manual of diagnosis and therapy


Professional guide to diseases


Scientific American Medicine

Electronic Resources



Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home Edition


Scientific American Medicine on CD-ROM


Consumer Health Information Centre

Seek an organization

Consider contacting a society or organization for the disease or condition you need information about. Many health related organizations exist which recommend useful literature and provide pamphlets and booklets free of charge. Our directories can help you to find their names and addresses.

Ask at the Gerstein Information Desk for these publications:

Print Directories

Blue book: directory of community services in Toronto


Canadian healthcare sourcebook.


Canadian medical directory


Directory of associations in Canada


Guide to Canadian health care facilities

Electronic Directories

Associations Unlimited


Try a book

Use the library catalogue to search for current books on your topic by subject or keyword. A good book will often provide you with all of the information you need or at least the necessary background information to form a solid basis for your search.

Books are shelved on 2 floors in call number order. Take the stairs to the right of the Loan Services desk. For the location of various call numbers, check the guide posted at the entrance to the stairs.

A-QM on 1 below
QP-Z on 2 below

Search for journal articles as your final step

Search journal databases for articles on your topic once you have gained some general knowledge about the topic from the sources mentioned above. Basic information about your topic will help you to make an informed selection from the numerous journal articles available. Our Information Desk staff can assist you with database selection. Online instructions and help pages are available within each database.

After searching the database, select the most useful citations. Copy each reference fully: author, title of the article, source or full journal title, volume, issue, page and year. The words "Appears in" or "Source:" or "Journal:" precede important details which you must record to find the item. E.g.:

Source: Journal of Infectious Diseases 171(3):683-6, 1995 Mar.

Always check the library catalogue by journal title; note which library it is kept in. We do not have every journal listed in the indexes, or they may be in use; so you should start with more than the number of articles you actually expect to read.


Suggested Database: Freely Available on the Internet


Twelve million citations in clinical medicine


Includes some free full text journal articles. Search a topic then type #1 AND free full text [sb] in the search box where #1 is set number. To find the set number, click History below the search box.




Suggested Databases: Restricted Access

Accessible through the web with a U of T student, staff or faculty library card; public access available in Gerstein using designated "public" computer terminals.

General Science Abstracts

a good starting point for many scientific and medical topics; it lists both popular and professional journal articles in all scientific disciplines.


Connect now


for articles in professional biomedical journals in all aspects of medicine. NOTE: each search term must be entered separately in this database.


Connect now


for articles relating to drugs, pharmacology, physical therapy, rehabilitation medicine.


Connect now


Print Journals

Print journals are shelved alphabetically by title at Gerstein:

Current journals (two most recent years) are shelved in the Current Periodicals Reading Room at the north end of the library on the main floor.


Bound journals (1970+ ) are shelved in the Journal Stacks on 5 floors at the south east end of the library.


Pre-1970 journals are shelved on 3 below. Take the stairs or elevator to the right of the Loan Services desk down 3 floors.


Electronic Journals

There is a direct link to the U of T electronic journals collection from the Gerstein homepage under the "books & journals" heading. Type the full journal title you require into the search box and select "Search". (A U of T crest beside a journal title indicates that the item is accessible onsite, or remotely to those with U of T staff, student, or faculty library cards.)

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