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Community Health Resources: PubMed: Introduction

The Library Guide discusses PubMed which comprises more than 22 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web site.

What is PubMed?

PubMed comprises over 21 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites. You can access PubMed by using the search box on this page or at the PubMed website.

Getting to Know the Interface

How PubMed Performs Searches

PubMed indexes articles with controlled vocabulary called MeSH (Medical Subject Headings).  The search engine uses automatic term mapping to map your keyword search terms(s) to the appropriate MeSH term(s), journal titles, a phrase list, or an author index in that order.  If the term is not matched, it is searched in all fields.

You can see the MeSH terms for an article once you click on an article title from a results list. To start searching, just enter your keyword search term(s) in the basic search box. You can you see how your search was indexed by MeSH terms under the "MeSH Terms" area by selecting it as noted in red below. Advanced search and MeSH search options are also available. See tutorials in the left sidebar on this page or view the Searching PubMed with MeSH Terms page of this guide for Basic and MeSH searches.

Keyword Search Strategies

PubMed allows numerous ways to search the database including keyword searching as mentioned above as well as Advanced search. Below are some tips to searching.

Operators - use AND, OR, NOT;  
Note: in PubMed, Boolean operators must be entered in uppercase letters.
Note: AND is the default operator used in PubMed. If you do not include Boolean operators in your search, PubMed will automatically use AND between terms.
Truncation - (*) Retrieves plural and variations of words.
Processing - PubMed processes connectors from left to right. The order can be changed by enclosing concepts in parentheses.
    Example: adolescen* AND (anorexia OR bulimia)
   A set of records will be first be retrieved with the terms anorexia or bulimia. 
   That set is then combined with adolescents, adolescence, etc.
Phrase searching
To search for a phrase that may not be a subject heading, enter double quotes around the phrase.  The quotes turn off the automatic term mapping mechanism. 
    Example: "vowel duration"


In Advanced search with Search Builder, you can search a specific field in the citation record (e.g. journal title, first author, grant number, language, etc).

  • Search Builder Tutorial

    1. Choose a field to search.
    2. Enter search term(s).
    3. Click the Show Index link to display a list of terms, if desired.
    4. Change the default AND operator, if necessary.
    5. Click the Add to Search Box button.
    6. Repeat steps as necessary.
    7. Click Search to run your query, or click Preview to see the result count of your query in the Search History section.