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PubMed: PubMed Tutorial

Welcome to PubMed Tutorial that is intended to provide general and basic information on how to search this resource

Aim of PubMed Tutorial

The aim of this page is to explain the step-by-step needed to run a simple search on PubMed.

PubMed Tutorial

PubMed is a free search database that contains Medline, plus additional information in dentistry, nursing, history of medicine and complimentary & alternative medicine.

Search PubMed for randomized controlled trials on the use of hepatitis vaccine in children:

  • Break topic into concepts;
  • Search for each concept alone;
  • Combine results using Boolean operators;
  • Finally apply limits.

This topic has two concepts: hepatitis and vaccines.

"children" and "Randomized Controlled Trials" are available from "Limits", it is advisable to take them from "Limits".

Select PubMed@SML from SML Homepage type hepatitis in the empty rectangle and click "Search".

A screen opens showing the number of records retrieved from searching PubMed (from early 1900), followed by displaying the first 20 records (most recently indexed article appears first) in summary format.

Go down to "Search details" box to see what has been actually searched by PubMed. This is an important step to make sure that you are getting the best result from PubMed.

PubMed automatically tries to map term into its MeSH and if it succeeds it does automatic "exploding" of the MeSH, then it "OR"es result with the term searched as All Fields.

Search details above tells me that PubMed searched for hepatitis as a MeSH term, exploded it automatically and the result was "OR"ed with hepatitis appearing in All Fields (All Fields is equivalent to keyword search in Medline).

Now remove hepatitis to search for the second concept. Type vaccination OR vaccine and click "Search":

One could search for vaccin*, but, this truncation will prevent exploding the MeSH, and so it is NOT advisable.

Similarly a new screen opens displaying records for vaccination OR vaccine, in "summary" format.

Now we have searched for all our concepts, we need to combine them. Click on "Advanced" so as to see the "PubMed Advanced Search Builder".

"PubMed Advanced Search Builder" displays the searches done, and designates a number such as #1, #2, #3 for each... This will allow combination of searches using Boolean operators .

Click on "Edit", then in the Search box type #1 AND #2 and click "Search".

The results so far are for hepatitis vaccine, and are displayed on the screen.

PubMed has a default Boolean AND, so another way of doing this search is to type directly at the Search box: hepatitis (vaccination OR vaccine)

To apply limits, from the left-hand column, select the filters that are of relevance - for this search select "Randomized Controlled Trial"; then click on "Show Additional Filters", select "Ages" then "Show", finally choose "Child: birth-18 years".

Applying too many limits might decrease number of records retrieved to a minimum or zero; if this is the case, try to remove one of these limiting options.

By default, the first twenty records are displayed in "Summary" format.

Click on the article's title to display the English abstract (if available),"Related citations in PubMed" and a link icon (like the one below) for accessing the full-text from SML and another one from the publisher.

Icon for Saab Medical Library (AUB, Beirut, Lebanon)


Click on these links to open the full-text; however if this link does not open the full-text, check in the "Journal Finder" or contact us for help.

To see full title of the journal, place the cursor on top of the journal's abbreviated title.

Author Search

To search for an author, ex. James A. Smith, to see what articles he has written and indexed in PubMed.

Author Search could be done in a number of ways:

  •     Type smith j@ OR smith ja at the search box, and click "Search":


Searching for an author, PubMed does automatic truncation. So searching Smith j retrieves all authors such as Smith ja or Smith jb or Smith jc ...

   When you add the @ sign after j, the automatic truncation will be disabled and so searching for Smith j@ will only retrieve the author smith j with no middle initial.

  •  Type smith ja and follow it by the author code [au], then click "Search":


      Here you retrieve all those articles in PubMed written by the author Smith ja.

Journal and Year Search Tags

To search for a particular journal, type the full name of the journal or its official Medline abbreviated words (leaving one space between the abbreviated terms).

To search for the New England Journal of Medicine:

If the journal is one word, example "hypertension", it is not abbreviated in PubMed, so to search for articles in this journal specify the journal tag [ta] after the journal name (so as not to retrieve hypertension in title or abstract).


Field tags are two letter codes enclosed within square brackets [ ], when typed after a word, would search for that word only in the specified field.  The most widely used tags:
       title [ti]
        author [au]
     journal name [ta]
      publication date [dp]

So, to look for articles written by an author with family name Blood and published in the journal called hypertension in 2005, you should search:
            blood [au] AND hypertension [ta] AND 2005 [dp]

Subject Guide

More PubMed Tutorials

In addition to this module, there are a number of PubMed tutorials available on the Internet: