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.

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. 
  • Example: 

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*)