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CHEM5510: Drug Discovery and Medicinal Chemistry


3. Plan Your Search

Search Topic

Drug example: ropinirole, a former "top 200" small molecule drug  2D structure of ropinirole hydrochloride

Database Vocabularies

Many library databases will assign a specific list of terms—"Concepts," "MEDLINE Medical Subject Headings," "MeSH terms," "subject headings," "thesaurus"—to represent an idea, instead of relying solely on the keywords or phrases different authors use in their articles. Experiment to find the best candidate terms.

Once you find a reference to a relevant article, examine the detailed view in the database.

  • PubMed: Look at the MeSH terms
  • SciFindern: Look at the Concepts

If there are no assigned terms listed for one reference, try another. Once you identify appropriate terms, repeat your search using the database vocabulary.


  • In both PubMed and SciFindern, you can search for references by combining terms with ANDs and ORs: ropinirole AND (drug development OR drug discovery)
  • Read older articles and/or review articles to find material on the early stages of the drug development process
  • Find additional material on early drug development by tracing references in the bibliographies of older articles and/or review articles

Search for lead discovery[ti] in PubMed, and select 3 relevant references from the first 20 results. Enter their PMID numbers into the Yale MeSH Analyzer. How could you use these results to find articles about your selected drug?

Search for the same 3 PMID numbers in SciFindern. How do the Concepts compare to the MeSH terms?


  • In SciFindern, use the By Count display of Concepts to identify candidate search terms
  • When databases lack a ranked display of subject headings, use a spreadsheet to identify candidate search terms

From the PubMed database, select MeSH at the bottom of the page and search for the 3 terms Drug Development, Drug Discovery, and then Technology, Pharmaceutical in the MeSH Browser. Explore the hierarchies in which they fit, and note which terms you could use to find articles for your paper.

Search for lead discovery[ti] AND parkinson* in PubMed and examine the assigned MeSH terms for 1 or more results. How could you generalize from this experience to find articles for your paper?

Using the SciFindern References option, type antiparkinson OR antiparkinsonian OR parkinson OR parkinsonian in the top search box. Change the pull-down menu by the next search box to Title. Enter lead discovery and examine the assigned Concepts for Chen et al. How could you generalize from this experience to find articles for your paper?