Skip to Main Content

Database Help

A guide with tips and videos to improve your database searching.


PubMed is a biomedical and life science database that includes over 21 million citations for articles, book chapters, and clinical trials. 

Researchers can sometimes use the terms PubMed, MEDLINE, and PubMed Central interchangeably, but they are slightly different. When searching PubMed, you will receive results from both MEDLINE indexed journals and PubMed Central. You can read more details about the differences between the three here:

New PubMed Interface

A new interface for PubMed launched in May 2020 and the legacy site was retired on October 31, 2020.

Basic Search

The default search in PubMed searches the entire record. It will also automatically convert your keywords to search additional terms (i.e. "automatic term mapping"). This can lead to a large number of results. In order to conduct more focused searches, use Boolean operators, truncation, and field tags:

  1. Popular search field tags:
    • Title (of the journal article or book chapter) [ti]
    • Title/Abstract [tiab]
    • Author (any author) [au]
    • Publication Name (Journal or book title) [ta]
    • MESH Terms (Medical Subject Headings); the controlled vocabulary of PubMed [MH]
  2. Boolean operations (AND, OR, NOT) should be all caps, but otherwise capitalization does not matter. For example, DNA and dna will all return the same results. 
Table of search operators, use, and examples
Operator Use Example
OR At least one term must appear liver OR cirrhosis
AND Both terms must appear addiction AND behavior
NOT Exclude one term lung NOT cancer
" " Exact phrase search, looks for the exact phrase or word, tends to prevent automatic term mapping from occuring "behavior" finds behavior, not behaviour
( ) Search inside the parentheses is executed first (snake OR frog) AND behavior
* Wildcard search, looks for the root word and alternate endings or beginnings Enzym* will return enzyme, enzymes, enzymatic, and enzymology
n# Proximity search, terms must be # number of words near each other, in any order zika n2 virus
w# Proximity search, terms must be # number of words near each other, in a order "whole genome" w4 sequence

Limiting Results:

  • The left-hand search bar also has facets to limit results by: MEDLINE journals, age group, language, article type, date, species, etc.

Advanced Search

Going Further