The evolution of the electronic age has led to the development of numerous medical databases on the World Wide Web, offering search facilities on a particular subject and the ability to perform citation analysis. We compared the content coverage and practical utility of PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. The official Web pages of the databases were used to extract information on the range of journals covered, search facilities and restrictions, and update frequency. We used the example of a keyword search to evaluate the usefulness of these databases in biomedical information retrieval and a specific published article to evaluate their utility in performing citation analysis. All databases were practical in use and offered numerous search facilities. PubMed and Google Scholar are accessed for free. The keyword search with PubMed offers optimal update frequency and includes online early articles; other databases can rate articles by number of citations, as an index of importance. For citation analysis, Scopus offers about 20% more coverage than Web of Science, whereas Google Scholar offers results of inconsistent accuracy. PubMed remains an optimal tool in biomedical electronic research. Scopus covers a wider journal range, of help both in keyword searching and citation analysis, but it is currently limited to recent articles (published after 1995) compared with Web of Science. Google Scholar, as for the Web in general, can help in the retrieval of even the most obscure information but its use is marred by inadequate, less often updated, citation information.