Medical databases should usually be the starting point for acupuncture research literature searches. There is a comprehensive list of relevant databases, together with links to them, in this document:

  • ‘Complementary medicine resources for health professionals and researchers’, available from this website

This article reviews the characteristics of all accessible CAM databases in 2008/9:

  • Boehm K, Raak C, Vollmar HC, Ostermann T. An overview of 45 published database resources for complementary and alternative medicine. Health Information & Libraries Journal 2010; 27(2):93-105.

Databases differ in various important respects:

Free access vs subscription

Pubmed (is a free access portal to the US government’s Medline database.

Most other useful databases are not free

Coverage of relevant journals

Pubmed/Medline provides good, but by no means complete, coverage of Western journals. As Pumed is a given, by virtue of its free access, the pertinent question for other databases is what extra do they offer?

Access to full texts

  • No access: Pubmed, AMED, EMBASE, Scopus
  • Some access: CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health) , various versions of MEDLINE, AltHealthwatch

Specialised databases

  • AltHealthwatch: CAM journals (see above); though many of these are also indexed in general medical databases
  • AcuTrials : specialized in acupuncture but (currently) covers only randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews. No full text access but is does provide items of information over and above the usual key terms, to help characterize the nature of each trial from acupuncture and research perspectives
  • Electroacupuncture. A database to accompany the book of the same name (ed David Mayor). More EA research than available anywhere else (and some non-electro entries too), but only up to the year 2000

Publisher databases

These are focused on, but not restricted to, the titles of a particular publisher or group, and generally more useful for accessing full texts than searching for lists of references. Science Direct (Elsevier) is the most well known; most institutions provide access to it. It includes about 2,500 journals and aims to cover the core scientific literature.

Citation indexes

One way of expanding your initial trawl is to follow up the references listed in the articles that you have already obtained. Citation indexes carry out a similar function but the other way round. All articles listed after searching on a particular topic will state the number of subsequent articles that have cited it: their details can then be displayed. Thus you can work forward from a particular key paper to find others in the field that have cited it. The Science Citation index  is freely available only through a subscribing institution.

e-journal gateways and database hosts

Many institutions use an e-journal service to give you access to titles across hundreds of different publishers. EBSCO  is a well known example. As with Science Direct, the details of what full text access you have are dictated by the purchasing decisions of your individual institution. That is true also of the Web of Science , a platform that gives you access to several databases for tracking down multi-disciplinary research.

Directories of resources

There are countless such directories, covering everything from one particular therapy, such as acupuncture, to the whole of medicine or science. It's easy to browse through to the area you're interested in and many have a search facility. Compared with general internet search engines they will greatly reduce the number of sites you have to sift through, hopefully restricting it to the more pertinent ones (however no one directory can cover every site that may be useful).

Some universities and government bodies maintain CAM resource directories (and these would be expected to make an attempt to control the quality of their lists), for example:
University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine:

Many others provide resources for medicine/healthcare in general, for example:
University of Exeter:

Access to Chinese research

China/Asia On Demand (CAOD) is a gateway to research materials from China in particular and Asia in general. It provides a search facility but this has limited capabilities unless you can work in Chinese, and it does not display the abstract. Full text documents can be accessed by pay per-view ($11.95 is the basic fee per article, September 2013) or with a flat fee subscription. A sub-section covers the main TCM titles (123 of them as at April 2013): They all have titles in English as well as Chinese but only some also have English keywords and abstracts.