The Literature Collection is a multilayered grouping of works in literature and the humanities. From medieval to modern, scholarly to satirical, there is something for everyone.



Online databases

The initial emphasis was a comprehensive search of relevant online databases. These computerized databases offer the most effective means of identifying international scientific literature and, in general, cover the time span from 1965 to the present. Databases were accessed through Dialog, a commercial database vendor, and through the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM’s) Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (MEDLARS).

To maximize retrieval, the search strategy incorporated synonymous terms for mustard gas and Lewisite. Thus, the databases were searched by using the following terms: mustard gas, Y pyrite, sulphur mustard, schwefellost, yellow cross, dichlorodiethyl sulphide, Lewisite, and chlorovinylarsine dichloride. Enhanced accuracy in online searching was gained by using Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Numbers, which uniquely identify each individual chemical. The final search strategy combined the CAS Registry Numbers (505-60-2 for mustard gas and 541-25-3 for Lewisite) and the synonymous terms for each chemical. Individual searches were customized to reflect the structure of each database. For applicable databases, searching was done on the standardized terminology and alphanumeric designators for each chemical found in NLM’s Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and the MeSH tree structures.

Although there is subject and content overlap, each database serves a unique function, has a distinct subject emphasis, and indexes literature not available elsewhere. For example, the two prominent medical databases, NLM’s Medline and Excerpt Medici’s EMBASE, have only an approximate 36 percent content overlap. To serve the comprehensive goals of this study, it was decided to search all relevant databases in their entirety. A total of 46 online databases were searched, covering biomedical, toxicological, chemical, and regulatory information. The majority of these databases were bibliographic, providing citations to scientific literature. Factual databases were also searched to provide toxicological and chemical information.

Other sources

Online databases were developed in the mid-1960s, and few offer retrospective coverage. Identifying the literature published prior to this time required the use of a variety of sources. The volumes of Index Medicos covering the years 1917-1965 were an important bibliographic source. Reference lists of major review articles and books were also examined for relevant citations; several provided extensive reference lists. Document collection of published literature involved accessing the collections of the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health Library, the Himmel farb Health Sciences Library of The George Washington University, and the National Research Council Library, as well as the use of interlibrary loans.


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