A Guide to Medical Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

Medical knowledge was once mysterious information that was dispensed only by doctors or nurses. The Internet has changed all that. Now, we face an overwhelming overabundance of medical insight rather than a lack. Navigating the maze of available sites can be difficult, as can ensuring that material is accurate and current. The following collection lists websites contain reputable and up-to-date information for both research professionals and curious laypeople.

Medical Dictionaries

MedlinePlus: Operated by the National Institute of Health, this website is targeted to patients and their families and friends. Site features include word lookup plus tabs on health topics, drugs and supplements, and videos and tutorials. Plain-English explanations about wellness issues and disease are provided.

MedTerms: This medical dictionary defines over 16,000 medical terms for non-professionals. Written by doctors, this free online resource is alphabetized. Words may be accessed by first letter or a word lookup search engine.

NCI Directory of Cancer Terms: Operated by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute, this free online resource offers a dictionary of oncologic and medical terms in English and Spanish. The patient-oriented site provides visitors with an autosuggest feature, word lookup and alphabetic listings.

Stedman’s Online: Historically a required text for med school students, Stedman’s Medical Dictionary is also available for purchase in online subscription form. Subscription provides access to the full dictionary; other subscriptions offer the nursing and health professions dictionary, the dental dictionary, the smaller “pocket” medical dictionary and the abbreviations and acronyms dictionary.

Taber’s Online: Also of import to medical students, the best-selling Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary is available for purchase in online subscription format. Containing 60,000 terms, 30,000 audio pronunciations and over 1,000 images, the online subscription is optimized for smartphones and tablets.

Medical Encyclopedias

A.D.A.M.: The National Institute of Health maintains the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, which houses over 4,000 summaries of information on medical conditions, symptoms, tests, treatments and injuries. Illustrations and photographs are included, and a mobile version is available for download. Formerly known as Medline, this encyclopedia is designed for the lay population.

MedScape: This encyclopedic resource is provided as a resource to the public by WebMD. Coverage includes diseases and conditions, a drug interaction checker, illustrated anatomy charts, explanations of procedures and information about pharmaceuticals. Registration is required, but the service is free.

GPnotebook: This database is an online reference source targeted toward clinicians. Organized by clinical specialty, the physician’s tool offers quick diagnostic assistance. This service is available as a subscription service but is free to medical students.

Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: Michael Murray’s classic reference work on natural medicine offers physicians and patients an alternative approach to treating nearly 100 diseases. Formerly only available in print, this book is now available for purchase on Amazon’s Kindle platform.

MD Consult: This subscription service, aimed at professional medical personnel, offers full-text journal articles, breaking information on new drugs, patient handouts and alerts on the latest medical news. This encyclopedia can be used as a diagnostic aid within the clinic environment or as a research tool. Since the site is peer-reviewed, physicians also use MD Consult as a tool to keep practices current.

Resources for Medical Students

MedicalStudent.com: Curated by U. Iowa Radiologist Michael P. D’Alessandro, this website contains links to biomedical resources, journals, search engines, professional organizations and other subjects of interest to students. The award-winning site has been cited by numerous health sciences publications as a useful resource for med students.

Continuum: The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) publishes a self-study guide called Continuum: Lifelong Learning in Neurology six times per year. Each guide contains case studies, diagnostic and treatment outlines, a patient management problem and a quiz. All medical student members of AAN receive free online access to all current and prior issues of Continuum.

Wisdomap Medicine: Developed by doctors to assist medical students, Wisdomap is a free resource. This online tool is designed to help students categorize information, organize differential diagnoses and create valuable study materials. Its visual tools complement the text, aiding in cognition and memory recall.

Visible Body: This software app provides interactive visualization of anatomy. Sold at the iTunes App Store, the basic anatomy model includes male and females with over 3,400 structures in 3D format. Users may rotate and zoom at any point, and detailed physiological information exists at every juncture. Other anatomy models available for purchase include muscle, heart and circulatory system, brain and nervous system, digestive, respiratory, and reproductive and urinary.

Medical Journals

DOAJ: The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a listing of free online scholarly and scientific journals. Its aim is to be a one-stop shop for science professionals in search of free research material online. The General Medicine section of this site contains 19 specialties, each containing multiple journals online.

New England Journal of Medicine: This elite publication provides coverage of medical discoveries, newsworthy research and clinical insight for physicians. Subscription is available in several forms: print and online; online, print and iPad; and student and U.S. resident. Subscribers enjoy full access to site archives as well as early-online publishing.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association is published twice monthly and reports cutting-edge original research, weekly CME quizzes, patient case studies and a weekly clinical challenge for physicians. This subscription offers student pricing and is available online only or as print and online combination.

British Medical Journal: This internationally peer-reviewed journal is an industry standard for physicians. Providing analysis of the latest medical research, education and news, the BMJ is also available as a subscription. Subscribers may choose from online only or print and online options; there is no student discount offered.

Medical Technology Journals

Journal of Medical Engineering and Technology: This publication is devoted to the application of technology to solving the problems of disease, and features review papers, original research and evaluations of new and existing products and techniques. This journal is available via subscription in print or online format.

Research & Reviews: Journal of Medical Science and Technology (RRJMST): This international journal publishes current research in medical science and technology. The scope of science includes pharmacology, anatomy, critical care and physiology. Subscriptions are available in print and online combinations.

Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology: Published by the Society of Nuclear Medicine, this journal is focused on the technology specific to that field. Articles on radiation safety, quality controls, radiopharmacy, and instrumentation and imaging are published four times per year, and online more frequently. Subscriptions are available at individual and institution pricing. No discount is offered for students; however, student membership in the Society is offered at a discount rate and includes a free online subscription to the Journal.