Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

HIP202 Research Skills Guide: PubMed

Introducing PubMed

PubMed is a free and publicly available resource provided by the US National Library of Medicine. It covers the biomedical literature and, as the free version of MEDLINE, is highly authoritative.

Pros and Cons: Advantages of using PubMed:

  • It is a huge, reliable, and highly authoritative resource
  • It is specific to medicine and health
  • In Basic Search, you can just enter your search terms, without operators or formatting. PubMed uses various tools to get the most relevant results.
  • Yet you can use Advanced Search, or the MeSH Database (Medical Subject Headings), if you wish. The Search Builder and Search History enables you to build and carry out very complex searches, including searches using MeSH Terms
  • It is free and publicly available so will always be available to you after you graduate.

Pros and Cons: Disadvantages of using PubMed:

  • Its interface can be a little daunting, and it is sometimes not clear how a search has worked
  • It does not necessarily contain links to full-text, and you might have to use Primo Search to track down the full item.

Hints on Using PubMed

Basic Search

Use the main search boxPubMed will automatically try to match your terms to Medical Subject Headings (MeSH terms), and search for those terms as well as the terms you entered. In effect, PubMed does a keyword search and a mapped MeSH search at the same time. This means you "get the best of both worlds" without having to think about it too much.

Just type in your topic terms and let PubMed match to, and search for, MeSH terms for you. Here are the results of a search for information on stroke and communication (8638 results):


If you want to know what search has actually been run:

  1. after the search has been run, click on Advanced [Search]
  2. in the History and Search Details panel, click on the arrow in the Details column beside your search.

This will show you exactly what PubMed searched for, and how your terms were "translated".

In this case, stroke, and communication, were matched to a number of like terms, including the MeSH terms stroke and communication.


Advanced Search and the MeSH Database


If you want more control over your searching you can go to Advanced Search and use the Advanced Search Builder to search for terms only in certain fields, including MeSH fields. This is also where you can view, and use, your Search History.



If you want to build a search using MeSH terms, and are not sure of which terms to use, you can click on the link to the MeSH database, in the More Resources column on the PubMed home page. Here you can search for, match to, and select MeSH terms, and add them into the Search Builder. But these are more complex processes, and, if you want to learn more, see the links to Help, below.



In your results list, you can use the filters (limiters) on the left side of screen for refine your results. There is a large range of filters available.



Many PubMed records will include a link to the full item, often in a resource known as PubMed Central. Where full-text does not appear to be available, copy the article title into Primo Search to see if it's held by CSU Library.

PubMed Help

For assistance with using PubMed, have a look at the PubMed User Guide, especially the sections on:

You can also try the following Quick Tours (short interactive tutorials):

For more Help resources, go to PubMed Online Training.