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WHSL PCMS and Beyond Survival Guide: Basic Information

A brief overview of using information resources from WHSL and other useful information, designed for students entering GEMP I

Welcome to BCM&H in GEMP I

Congratulations! You are about to enter the world of clinical medicine, and to make extensive use of the facilities of the Witwatersrand Health Sciences Library (WHSL). In the next few years WHSL's LibGuides will help you find the information that you require for your studies, and will also help you study, practice and revise for your information retrieval assessments in GEMP 1 and GEMP 2. 

GEMP has both Wits MBBCh students and graduate students (who may not have used either the Wits Library system or WHSL in particular), this LibGuide will cover all the information you will need to help you settle down fast, particularly with regard to finding information resources.

If you are new to Wits (or even if you have never used WHSL before you entered GEMP), we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the WHSL New Student Guide.

Types of Information Sources in Health Sciences

Please familiarise Yourselves with the types of information that are available to You in the WHSL Guide to Information Sources in the Health Sciences.

WHSL's Collections

The most important feature to note is that almost all of WHSL's resources (databases, books and journals) are available electronically. This has many advantages - you do not need to access the library physically in order to find information, so WHSL's e-collections are available to you from anywhere (remotely) and the library becomes virtual, that is it is "open" electronically 24/7/365. However, you will need to take care that you do not violate copyright or plagiarise sources, both of which have extremely serious consequences.

Print One Day Loan Books

There are very few print copies of prescribed textbooks in the collection at WHSL. Most of the print collection that you may use consists of anatomy atlases and basic physiology textbooks, with some South African material that is not yet electronically available. The "open" shelves in WHSL's book collection, allows you to borrow the items for periods of either one or three days, depending on demand. The rest of WHSL's print book collection may be borrowed for periods of two weeks. Please check the date stamp at the back of the print books to ensure that you do not accrue fines. University policy dictates that your exam results will be withheld if your have fines outstanding or material returned very late which incurs a SIMS block, so it is always best to avoid accumulating fines altogether.


You can access WHSL's e-books via the WHSL e-Resources in Health Care LibGuide or WHSL eBook Collection Libguide. These are listed alphabetically by title, or by MeSH (Medical Subject Heading) term or by Publisher. Simply click on the relevant tab, then select the letter of the alphabet required from the drop-down menu, then find the title or MeSH term for the book you require. Some e-books require an additional user ID and password for use, and all require a Library PIN for remote off-campus access. Prescribed textbooks are linked to the available electronic and/or print copy housed in the Witwatersrand Health Sciences Library.

Print and e-Journals

Journals are made up of articles written by different authors. They usually contain more up to date information than textbooks, but can also be highly specialised, whereas textbooks contain more general information. Most of WHSL's journals are now only available electronically. However, please remember to look for older journals on the print-bound journal shelves. You can access WHSL's e-books via the WHSL e-Resources in Health Care LibGuide. Simply click on the e-journal finder tab, then on the e-Wits A-Z journal searching link. 


Databases are the electronic versions of indexes and abstracting publications, which provide a starting point for finding journal articles by subject. All WHSL's databases are available via the WHSL e-Resources in Health Care LibGuide. Simply click on the Databases A-Z tab and select the database you require from the alphabetical drop-down menu. The databases most frequently searched in clinical medicine are ClinicalKeyUpToDateand PubMed. You will have extensive tutorials on how to retrieve clinical information from Clinicalkey and PubMed databases over the next two years.