Step by step search
How to perform a simple search in PubMed:
Step 1. Begin with a well-defined research question.
- Example: What is the effect of folic acid supplementation for pregnant women?
Step 2. Identify the key concepts in that question.
- For clinical questions, consider using the PICO framework: Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome.
- Example: P: pregnant women, I: folic acid supplementation, C: n/a, O: improved infant health outcomes
Step 3. Perform a simple search in PubMed by entering the Population and Intervention key concepts into main search bar without any punctuation.
- PubMed automatically applies syntax and combines your search terms.
- Watch Doing a Simple Search tutorial in the Pub Med tutorials section of this guide for more on how to run a simple search in PubMed.
Step 4. Use the filters on the left hand side of the page to focus your results. See PubMed tutorials for a short video on filters.
How to use MeSH terms to search PubMed
- Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) is a hierarchical vocabulary of medical terminology created by the National Library of Medicine.
- Records in PubMed are "tagged" or indexed with MeSH terms that identify what that article is about.
- You can use MeSH terms in your search to give you a very focused set of results related to your topic.
- See the short video Using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), found in the Pub Med tutorials section of this guide to learn how to create a MeSH search.
How to develop a search for other databases using AND, OR, NOT
- Simple searches in PubMed do not use boolean, but other database do, learn more in the Web of Science tutorial
- Combine your key concepts with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)
- Brainstorm other ways your key concepts might be mentioned in the literature (synonyms), and keep all synonyms for each key concept within parentheses.
- Add quotation marks to phrases with two or more words
- Add an asterisk to the root of a word to find all forms of that word (child* = children, child's, child)
Example: ("folic acid" OR "vitamin M" OR folate) AND supplement* AND (pregnan* OR gestat*)