Technology in Practice

How to Use Email and the Internet to Help You Keep Up With the Literature (Part II): PubMed and Allied Journal Club

Robert M. Balen, BSc(Pharm), PharmD
Associate Editor, Journal of Informed Pharmacotherapy
J Inform Pharmacother 2002;10:500.

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This is the second installment of a multipart series aimed at helping health care professionals use technology to keep current with professional literature. Effective use of technology is needed to selectively sort through the thousands of new literature citations that become available on a weekly basis.  Part I of this series outlined how journal contents can be delivered to you by email (eTOC) directly from the publisher. (1)  This installment will review two additional technology-based surveillance strategies for keeping aware of professional publications. These strategies include using the PubMed database Cubby feature and a free online literature alerting service called Allied Journal Club (AJC)

Option 1. PubMed

PubMed is an Internet database developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), located at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA. PubMed indexes and provides free access to several databases which include: MEDLINE, out-of-scope citations (e.g. articles on the geo or astro sciences), citations from MEDLINE journals that precede the date determined MEDLINE indexing process, selected life science journals that submit full text to PubMed and are qualitatively reviewed by the NLM. (2,3)  PubMed databases are accessible via Entrez; a text base database search and retrieval system developed by and used at NCBI.  Readers may be familiar with the MEDLINE searching capability of PubMed, there are; however, additional features that can be used to improve searching efficiency and enable users to browse journal contents and citation abstracts. "Journal browser" is a feature that allows users to view citations from specified journals and is available for any PubMed indexed journal. "PubMed Cubby" is a feature that has three major functions one of which is to enable users to store search strategies that can be executed and updated at any time.  Additional features include, LinkOut preferences, and storage of document delivery service preferences.  A description of LinkOut and document delivery aspects of PubMed is available online at

Using PubMed Cubby To Screen The Literature 

As was outlined in part I of this series, an eTOC service can be a convenient way to screen professional journal contents. Unfortunately, not all journal publishers provide this service. Three journals which do not currently have an eTOC service include the American Journal of Health-Systems Pharmacy (AJHP), Pharmacotherapy, and The Lancet. In order to review the contents of these journals, readers can use the "Journal Browser" feature in PubMed and store the search strategy in Cubby for regular updates and review.

What follows is a step-by-step example of how to use the PubMed Cubby to keep up to date with AJHP, Pharmacotherapy, and the Lancet.

Step 1. Activate A Cubby Account

In order to save and update searches PubMed users must activate a Cubby account. A Cubby can be activated by going to the main PubMed page at  and clicking on the Cubby link in the left column menu. Clicking on this link will take users to a Cubby login/registration page (Figure 1).

Figure 1. PubMed Cubby Login/Registration Page


Make sure that your web browser is set to accept "cookies" and click the "I Want to Register for Cubby" link. Once you have activated a Cubby, you can use the journal browser feature to search for the contents of any PubMed indexed journal.

Step 2. Run a Journal Browser Search

After registering for Cubby, return to the main PubMed page by clicking on the "PubMed" link along the top horizontal border on the Cubby login/registration page. From the main page, users can activate the "Journal Browser" feature by clicking on the "Journal Browser" link in the left menu column. In order to view the contents of AJHP, type "American journal of health-system pharmacy" into the search bar. Journals titles matching the search text string will be displayed (Figure 2).  Clicking on the journal MEDLINE abbreviation in the right column will display the citations from that particular journal (Figure 3).

Figure 2. PubMed Journal Browser Search

Figure 3. PubMed Journal Browser Search Citations for American Journal of Health-Systems Pharmacy

Step 3. Save The Search

Once you have searched PubMed for AJHP using the journal browser, you can save the search strategy for this journal by clicking the Cubby link on the left side bar. Cubby will display your search and you can save this search strategy by clicking the "store in Cubby" button (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Store Search in Cubby by Clicking the "Store in Cubby" Button.

Step 4. Search for Additional Journals

Return to the main Journal browser screen in PubMed and repeat the above process for additional journals that you wish to review (e.g. Pharmacotherapy and Lancet). Save these searches in Cubby as described above. These journal searches will be listed separately in the stored searches section of the Cubby (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Cumulative Stored Searches in Cubby

Step 5. Periodically Update Your Search And Review The Results

In order to keep up with new contents for selected journals, saved searches must be periodically updated. Choosing a convenient schedule (e.g. bi weekly) to do so can make this process a simple habit.  In order to update the search, login to your PubMed Cubby. You will be presented with a list of your stored searches (Figure 5). Clicking on the search name will reveal information about the stored search and will present a "search" button. Clicking on the search button will simply rerun the search without update limits. In order to selectively check for new citations since your last search you can click on the checkboxes next to the name of the journal that you wish to review and then click on the "What's New for Selected" button. If new citations are available they will appear as a numeric value in an additional column (Figure 6). Click on the numeric value to review the new citations.

This PubMed Journal Browser and Cubby strategy can be used to keep up to date with the contents of any PubMed indexed journal. Users are limited to storing 100 searches per Cubby but can activate an unlimited number of Cubby accounts.

Figure 6. Updating A Saved Search Figures Indicating New Citations

Option 2: Allied Journal Club

Allied Journal Club (AJC) is a free Internet-based healthcare literature alerting service. This service is perhaps one of the simplest and most convenient ways of being alerted to the availability of new literature. AJC includes alerting options for many mainstream medical and pharmacy journals. A compete journal list for the AJC service is outlined online at

AJC uses an automated email notification system whereby subscribers can be alerted to the availability of new contents in selected journals. The email notification provides a link to the PubMed citations for the journal and from that point the citation titles and abstracts can be reviewed.  Neither the citation titles nor abstracts are included in an AJC email alert. Rather, the subscriber must follow the link provided in the email to view the citation. An example of an AJC notification for the Lancet is provided in Figure 7.

Setting up literature alert notifications with AJC

Step 1. Go to the website AJC

Step 2. Click on the "sign up today link" and enter the required contact information (Figure 8) 

Step 3. Scroll down the page and indicate which journals you wish to be keep track of (Figure 9)

Step 4. Check your email.

Figure 7. Allied Journal Club Email Alert For Lancet Content

Figure 8. Allied Journal Club Sign Up Page


Figure 9. Example of Some Allied Journal Club Journal Selection Options



Effective use of technology is required to selectively sort through the thousands of new professional literature citations that become available on a weekly basis. PubMed features such as Cubby can be used to accomplish this task. Allied Journal Club is a free Internet based medical literature alerting service that is simple to use and delivers email notification of new content availability for many major pharmacy and medical journals. PubMed provides access to citations and abstracts from thousands of journals but requires more effort to use than AJC.  However,  AJC provides content alerts from a more limited selection of journals. Either PubMed or AJC is an effective journal based literature screening method that can be customized to readers needs. The next installment of this series will outline techniques whereby health professionals can keep aware of developments in particular disease states or "therapeutic topics".


  1. Balen RM. How to Use Email and the Internet to Help You Keep Up With the Literature: Part I. J Inform Pharmacother 2002;9:500.  accessed July 3, 2002
  2. Fact SheetWhat's the Difference Between MEDLINE® and PubMed®? Available from National Library of Medicine Fact Sheets . Accessed July 3, 2002
  3. PubMed Overview. Last Updated: June 21, 2002 Available at  Accessed July 3, 2002

Copyright © 2002 by the Journal of Informed Pharmacotherapy. All rights reserved.