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HLT505 Research Skills Guide: PubMed

A guide to searching for research articles for HLT505

Searching in PubMed

PubMed is roughly the free equivalent of MEDLINE. There are a couple of ways you can search PubMed:

  • The easiest way is simply to use the main search box. When you do this, PubMed will search for the terms that you enter, as keywords, but will also try to match your terms to MeSH terms, and search for those terms as well. In effect, PubMed does a keyword search and a mapped MeSH search at the same time, so you get the benefit of both.

For example, here are the results of a search for information on communication and stroke:

PubMed screen showing results of a search

If you want to know what search has actually been run, scroll down the right panel and look for the Search Details box. This will show you the exact search. In this case, the search was for :

stroke, as a MeSH term OR stroke, as a keyword
communication, as a MeSH term OR communication, as a keyword.



  • 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.

PubMed screen showing the use of the MeSH database

But these are more complex processes. For assistance, have a look at the PubMed Help, especially the sections on:

PubMed also has its own YouTube video tutorials, including the two embedded at right. You can access all of the video tutorials at PubMed YouTube tutorials.

PubMed Advanced Search Builder

Use MeSH to Build a Better PubMed Query

Setting Up an Account

If you wish to save a search in PubMed, you will need to set up a My NCBI account. Here's how:

  1. At the the PubMed homepage, click on the Sign in to NCBI link.
  2. At the NCBI sign in screen, click on the Register for an NCBI account link.
  3. Follow the prompts to set up an account.
  4. Make a note your login and password for future use.

Saving a Search

To save a search in PubMed, follow these steps after running your search:

  1. Log in to your NCBI account
  2. Click on the Create Alert link beneath the search box. 
  3. Tick the No, thanks box beneath "Would you like e-mail updates of new search results?"
  4. Press the Save button. This will save your search.

The next time you need to access your search, simply log in and click on the My NCBI link at the top right of screen. You will see a Saved Searches box on your My NCBI home screen, with your search listed.