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OVID Medline guide intended to provide basic information about Medline and how to search it.

Aim of Medline Tutorial

This is a step-by-step tutorial that show you the steps needed for a simple Medline OVID search.

Medline Tutorial

To search Medline for the topic "needle biopsy and prostate cancer", follow below 4 steps:

  1. Break topic into concepts: "prostate cancer" and "needle biopsy";
  2. Search for each concept alone;
  3. Combine results using Boolean Operators;
  4. Apply Limits as needed.

In the Search box type "prostate cancer" and click "Search"

Medline will automatically suggest MeSH term(s) "Prostatic Neoplasms" displayed as hyperlinks, that best match the term entered. At the end of the MeSH list there is a choice to search for the term entered as a "keyword search":

  • Explode: automatically searches for that MeSH "OR"ed with all its narrower MeSH terms found in the tree structure.
  • Focus: retrieves only those articles that talk heavily about that MeSH term; i.e. that MeSH term is a major concept that the articles retrieved are discussing.
  • The Database Information under the "Scope" gives more information about that particular subject heading.
MeSH search is most effective way of searching as it searches for articles that talk about that concept.

Select the MeSH Prostatic Neoplasms, Explode and Focus then click "Continue" as shown above.

To see "tree structure" for the MeSH term "prostatic neoplasms", click on its hyperlink.

Medline displays subheadings that could further restrict a subject search. One could choose one, or more, or all subheadings. You could choose here subheadings for diagnosis, or select all subheadings as you are going to AND this term with needle biopsy. Click "Continue", Set 1 is created indicating that there are 35905 articles that talk about prostatic cancer.

Leave this set aside temporarily and search for the second concept.

Type in the search box "needle biopsy" and click "Search". Medline suggests the MeSH "Biopsy, Needle", select this term, Explode, Focus, then click "Continue". Select all subheadings to create a second set of 6029 articles talking about needle biopsy.

The star preceding the MeSH  indicates that MeSH was focused.

Combine the above searches, write in the search box "1 AND 2" and then click search:

The result is shown below as set 3 that contains 527 articles that talk about both concepts prostate cancer and needle biopsy:

This final set could be limited by Human, English language, Review Articles, etc... This could be done by clicking on "Limits" then "Additional Limits" that provides more limiting options, such as, year, age, language, publication type, gender, Clinical Queries (EBM Filters) etc...

After selecting all the limits of interest, Medline displays the results with the most recent 10 articles appearing first.  Some articles contain "PDF Full Text" link that would take you to the full-text of that particular article in PDF format, the "SML Full Text Available" link would take you to the full-text, where as the "Complete Reference" displays the citation, MeSH terms plus abstract (if available).

NOT all SML e-journals have direct links from OVID to full-text, so if a citation does not show this link or if the link does not open, check "Journal Finder" to see if the journal is available at AUB.

On top of the results page, you have the options to "Print", "Email", "Export"... This can be done for all the retrieved set or after selecting one or more of the citations.

If you have not retrieved enough hits by searching with MeSH, do a keyword search (ORing synonyms, abbreviation, related terms... using truncation).

More Medline Search Options

Search Options available for OVID Medline:

Search for

How to do that?

This Retrieves




Click "Author", type family name, ex. Farha, select initials if known   articles written by the author family name Farha and selected initials.
 Farha   articles written by author Farha whose first initial is a


Click "Journal"; type first word, ex. chest, and select chest from list.   articles written in the journal called "Chest".
 Chest.jn.   articles written in the journal called "Chest"

Title word


  articles that have "probability" in their titles.

 articles that have probabil or probability or probabilities in their


 heart adj3 surgery

 articles that have heart and surgery with a maximum number of 3
 words in  between them.

After Medline Tutorial

After reading Medline tutorial, SML Librarians encourage you to attend a live session or to schedule an appointment to have a one-to-one session.

To better understand these search techniques, you have to practice many more exercises.  Search Medline for "antibiotics abuse in Arab countries", then e-mail the strategy to and sit with the Librarian to explain the best way to do this.

Some topics are easy to search, while others need the extensive expertise of the researcher.  We strongly suggest that you do search your topic alone, then take an appointment and see how we might search it differently and more effectively.

Cite Medline Articles

AUB Libraries subscribe to a number of most important citation management tools namely RefWorks, EndNote Web and Endnote Client that maybe used to manage your citations from database searching.

For more information on these, visit the complete ABC guide on how to manage your references from the most important Medical, Nursing, and Public Health databases using Refworks, Endnote Web & Endnote Client.