PubMed database guide: Searching hints

Provides hints to accessing the literature in PubMed

Where to start

At the query box, enter a word or phrase to search.  PubMed uses Automatic Term Mapping that matches terms to Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), journal titles, a phrase list, or an author index in that order.  If the term is not matched, it is searched in all fields. 

"Search Details" filter

The Search Details filter appears on the right side of the results screen.  It indicates how PubMed searched your terms and in what fields.  With the automatic term mapping feature, matching terms from the Medical Subject Headings will appear.  Admittedly, there are times when the searching terms used may not match your intended search.  For example, I want to locate articles on the synthesis of taxol.  PubMed maps synthesis to metabolism which may not apply if I'm looking for preparation of taxol:

("metabolism"[MeSH Terms] OR "metabolism"[All Fields] OR "synthesis"[All Fields]) AND ("paclitaxel"[MeSH Terms] OR "paclitaxel"[All Fields] OR "taxol"[All Fields])

Within that filter box, you can delete terms and re-search.

PubMed: Building a Search - Video

Searching tools

Connectors - AND, OR, NOT - Enter in uppercase.

PubMed assumes AND between concepts. For example, the following words: vitamin D common cold are combined as follows in PubMed:
vitamin D AND common cold
Truncation - (*) Retrieves plural and variations of words.
PubMed processes connectors from left to right.  The order can be changed by enclosing an individual concept 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"
Search Field Tags
   Search your term or phrase with Search Field Tags to limit to specific fields.
      Helpful tags include:
  • Author [AU]
  • Title of article [TI]
  • Abstracts [AB]
  • Title/Abstract [TIAB]
  • Publication date [DP]   Indicate a range as follows:  2002:2007 [DP]
  • Journal title [TA]         Can be the journal title abbreviation or full title
  • Affiliation [AD]            Can include words within institutional affiliation
  • Text words [TW]         Includes title, abstract, subject headings, etc.
  • Medical Subject Headings [MH]  Selected from the thesaurus

Examples of searches:

   Rice M* [AU] AND Kansas [AD]
   Adolescent* [TI] AND (anorexia [TI] OR bulimia [TI])
   J Biol Chem [TA]
   "microdialysis sampling" [TIAB] AND "in vivo"
   autistic disorder [MH]