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NRS328 Research Skills Guide: MEDLINE / PubMed

Introduction to MEDLINE / PubMed

MEDLINE is recognized as the premier index of biomedical literature, and includes coverage of nursing. It is produced by the United States National Library of Medicine and covers thousands of international journals from 1950.

It is a subscription database which is available to CSU users in a number of platforms:

  • Ovid
  • ProQuest
  • Web of Science.

The search tips below are for the Ovid platform. Ovid provides access to a number of health, medical, and psychology databases, including Ovid EBM Reviews, which you learnt about in the NRS311 Research Skills Tutorial. If you want to search other Ovid databases at the same time you can click on the Change link in the search panel, and select from the menu, or go to the Ovid menu of databases.

Meanwhile, PubMed is sort of the free version of MEDLINE. One advantage of using PubMed is that access is free, which means that you will have access after you complete your studies.

If you are interested in the difference between MEDLINE and PubMed, the National Library of Medicine has a fact-sheet.

Searching in MEDLINE

MEDLINE is available in Ovid in different date packages in Ovid. Here are some tips on searching in Ovid:

  • The default is to the Advanced Search screen. There is only one line of search, so for more complex searches you will need to use Nesting, or run your searches individually and then combine them.
  • There are other Search Modes available. With Basic Search, you can simply type in exactly what you are searching for, and the results will be sorted by Relevance.
  • As in EBSCOhost, the default is to a phrase search so typing in nursing diagnosis will search for that as a phrase.
  • There are many limiters available. Some of these you can apply at the time of your search, others - Additional Limits - can only be applied to a search you have already run.
  • The proximity operator is ADJn, where n is the number of words you specify.
  • MEDLINE is primarily an index, but does have some links to full-text. For results where there is no full-text link, use the Find it             button to search for the full article via Primo Search.
  • Searches are recorded in the Search History panel which is above the Search panel. If you can't see all of your previous searches, click on the Expand button to the right of the Search history panel.
  • If you wish to permanently save searches, search alerts, or manage research, you need a personal account in Ovid. Here's how to set it up:
  1. At the top right of screen, click on My Account.
  2. At the right of screen, Create Account.
  3. Follow the instructions and prompts to set up your new Account.
  4. Make a note of your login and password for future use!


For more on searching in MEDLINE, go to the page in this guide on Using MeSH Terms in MEDLINE.

Searching in 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 

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.




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, click on the article title to go to the full record and use the Find it            button to search for the article via Primo Search

For more on searching in PubMed, see the page in this guide on Using MeSH Terms in PubMed.

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