Directions for Searching in PubMed


Directions for Searching in PubMed

PubMed provides free access to MEDLINE on the Internet ( Anyone with access to a computer with an Internet connection can find references to articles on medical topics. This guide demonstrates a basic search and points out some additional PubMed features.

Suppose a person were looking for articles about the use of acupuncture for headache in children. The search could be performed in PubMed by dividing the topic into parts (acupuncture and headache). Acupuncture, the first aspect of the search, is typed into the box.


The search may be limited to English, an age group, date range, or to a specific field (subject, author, title, etc.) by clicking on the word Limit button which appears below the search box. Choose the desired limits for the search. For this example, MeSH (medical subject heading), All Child: 0-18, and English were chosen. To execute the search click on the Go button button.

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Limited To window

Next, type in the second aspect of the search into the search box (in this case headache). Notice now that the box next to limits is checked. This means the same limits used for the previous search will be used again. Click on Go button.

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However, articles about BOTH acupuncture and headache in children were wanted. To combine these two searches, click on the word History located below the search box. PubMed displays all of the previous searches.

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search history

These searches may be combined with AND to narrow a search or OR to broaden a search. To combine the searches, type #1 AND #2 in the search box. AND must be in capital letters. Click on Go button.

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combined search

Citations matching the search strategy appear below the search box on the page. Abstracts, if available, may be viewed by clicking on the authors' names. Specific citations may be selected from the list by clicking on the check box to the left of the citations.

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Several options are available to manage selected citations. Citations may be displayed for printing by clicking on Display . Selected citations may also be moved to a temporary location while more searches are performed by choosing "Clipboard" next to the "Send to" button. To retrieve these citations (within the hour), click on the word Clipboard located below the search box. Citations may also be saved by choosing "File" next to the "Send to" button.

Other PubMed Services:

These additional features are found on the menu at the left side of the screen.

The Journals Database is useful for decoding a confusing journal abbreviation or for looking up the MEDLINE abbreviation for a journal. Type the journal or the journal abbreviation in the box.

The MeSH Database is useful for looking up Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to make a search more precise. Type in a word and the MeSH browser will suggest possible subject headings for a search. They may be added to a search directly from this screen. A list of subheadings (to make a search even more precise) is available by clicking on Detailed Display.

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MESH Browser

The Clinical Queries feature is useful for filtering searches for articles of clinical interest emphasizing therapy, diagnosis, etiology, and prognosis. Searches may be limited to sensitivity or specificity. This feature is useful when the best clinical evidence is sought regarding a topic.

Screen shot of Clinical Queries

Questions about searching MEDLINE may be directed to the MDH library at 651-201-5093 or