Embase via Ovid (1974-present) is a database that indexes over 7,500 peer reviewed journals from over 90 countries. It covers all aspects of biomedical and pharmacological research. It is updated weekly. Embase Classic (1947-1973) is a backfile drawn from the Excerpta Medica Index that covers over 3,000 biomedical and pharmacological journals. To get to Embase go to the Bio-Medical Library’s webpage, choose ‘E’ under Other Health-related Indexes, and then click on Embase.

Creating a Personal Account

To save your search history and/or to set up automatic email alerts in Ovid Embase, you need to set up a personal account in Ovid. Click My Account in the upper right corner of the main search page. On the next screen click Create a new Personal Account and complete the form to register for an account. If you have created a personal account in any other Ovid database, you can use that account in Embase.

Searching Ovid Embase

Ovid Embase defaults to the Advanced Search tab. Make sure that the Map Term to Subject Heading is checked so that you will be mapped to the controlled vocabulary terms found in Emtree, the Embase counterpart to Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) in Medline. The most effective way to conduct a search in Embase is to formulate your search statement in a sentence form as brief as possible and then search the basic components of your search one term at a time. For example, say you wanted to find articles that address the question of whether exercise can help control type 2 diabetes in obese patients. Begin by typing in ‘type 2 diabetes’ and clicking on the Search tab.

EMBASE search

Subject Headings

This will take you to the subject heading results, where Ovid Embase will map you on to the Emtree term that corresponds to the term that you typed in. In using the controlled vocabulary in Medline or Embase you are searching for the concept corresponding to the term you typed in regardless of what word the author used. In this case the Emtree term occurs in blue print above the term that you typed in. In this case the Emtree term for ‘type 2 diabetes’ is non insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. If you choose to search the keyword ‘type 2 diabetes’ instead of the Emtree term you were mapped to, Ovid will only retrieve articles where the term ‘type 2 diabetes’ occurs in the title, abstract, or descriptors of the article. 

EMBASE subject headings

Auto Explode, Focus, and Scope

Make sure that Auto Explode box is checked so that your search includes any narrower terms that fall under the term that you searched. If you choose to restrict to Focus, you will only retrieve those articles where the term that you searched is considered to be a major focus of the article. Finally, Scope will provide a list of synonyms for the term that you are searching. If you have chosen to search the Emtree term, clicking on Continue will take you to a list of subheadings:

EMBASE autoexplode, focus, and scope


Subheadings allow you to narrow your search results by concentrating on a specific aspect of the term that you are searching. In this case the subheading Prevention was chosen because the search concerns whether exercise can help prevent type 2 diabetes in obese patients. Clicking on Continue will complete the first part of your search.

EMBASE subheadings

Here we retrieved 5581 articles on the prevention of no- insulin dependent diabetes. We are now ready to enter our next two search terms: ‘obesity’ and ‘exercise’. Once we have searched all three terms, we can combine them together using the And button below the search history box. 

EMBASE search history

You can further refine your search by limits. Here the search has been limited to Human and English Language

EMBASE limits

Types of limits vary by database. While the limits in Ovid Medline and Ovid Embase largely overlap, there are limits in Medline that are not in Embase and limits in Embase that are not in Medline. For example there are limits to Review Articles, Pharmacological Actions, Structured Abstracts, and Core Clinical Journals in Ovid Medline that are not in Embase and a limit to Cochrane Library in Embase that is not found in Medline.

Click on Additional Limits to choose from a wider range of limits.

EMBASE additional limits

Reviewing Citations

Once you have completed you can either click Display to the right of the chosen set or you can scroll down if the set you wish to review is the last set displayed. Mark individual citations by clicking on the box on the upper left hand corner of each citation. To access the fulltext of an article, if available, click on the Find It link.

EMBASE reviewing citations

To view more detailed information about a citation, click Complete Reference. Here you will find complete citation information, including the abstract (if available) as well as a list of subject headings assigned to describe the article. These subject headings can be used to refine your search strategy.

Managing Results

To print, email, or export citations to your preferred citation manager or another file type, select individual citations by checking the checkbox next to each numbered citation or check Select All. Then click the Print, Email, or Export link.

EMBASE managing results

To save your search query within Ovid so that you can run it again or create an automatic email alert that will notify you when relevant citations are added to the database, first log into your Personal Account. Give the search query a name and select either Permanent or AutoAlert (SDI) in the Type drop down box. Then click the Save button.

Subject Specialist

Del Reed

274 Diehl Hall