PubMed is a freely available public interface to more than 33 million citations and abstracts that cover life science and medical journals. While PubMed does not include full-text articles, Penn's PubMed Plus, does include links to Penn subscribed as well as freely accessible journals. The great majority of citations found using PubMed come from the Medline database produced by the National Library of Medicine.
In addition to bibliographic information (author/title/journal), citations from Medline include Medical Subject Headings, a controlled vocabulary used to index concepts discussed in the article.
The PubMed homepage offers a single search box. Enter words or phrases in the box. Pubmed will search for the words you type in and additional terms 'mapped' to your topic. Use the Advanced search option to review the search strategy created. Select Advanced below the search box, find your search in the History area, and then select Details.
MeSH terms are added to Medline citations by indexers at the National Library of Medicine. Using these terms can improve search results. Because MeSH terms are hierarchical in nature, PubMed allows you to 'explode' a term which will retrieve articles indexed to more specific MeSH terms. For example, searching for the MeSH term "Neoplasms" will automatically retrieve articles indexed to any type of neoplasm.
Finding MeSH terms in the MeSH database
In addition to selecting a MeSH term to search. You can attach "subheadings" and also specify that a MeSH term must be one of the "major topics" discussed in the article.
Use the "PubMed Search Builder" to construct a search strategy and then send it back to PubMed for searching.
Creating a personal account in PubMed offers a number of benefits. As long as you are logged into your account, you can:
While truncation can increase your results, Phrase and Field searching can help limit your results. Rather than finding a word anywhere in a record, you can specify the field where the word should appear.
Warning: the use of field, phrase, or truncation commands will stop PubMed from 'mapping' your search term to other appropriate terms.
If attempting to answer a clinical question, consider using this PubMed feature to retrieve better evidence articles. By adding your search terms and then selecting the appropriate clinical study category, PubMed will use built-in search filters to restrict retrieval.
If too many citations retrieved
If none, or too few citations retrieved