Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Levy Library

Search PubMed Effectively

Learn How To... Access PubMed
  Do a basic search
      for a topic
      for an author
      for a citation
  Use Filters
  Use the Advanced Search options
      to do a field search
      to work with your search history
  Use other search tools
      do a MeSH search
      ask a Clinical Query
  Save your searches with the Clipboard and MyNCBI
  Connect to full-text
  Find more information

Access PubMed

Mount Sinai users should access PubMed from the Library's home page on the right sidebar under Key Resources, or from the Library's Databases page.

Accessing PubMed through the Library allows you to connect directly from PubMed to many of the Library's full-text articles.

Read about off campus access.

Link to PubMed

Basic Searching

To search for a topic, type your terms in the search box. If necessary, combine keywords using AND & OR (in all caps).

AND retrieves hits where all terms appear. OR retrieves hits where either term appears.

Search Details

Look at the Search details box (to the right of the Results list) to see how PubMed has translated the search.

PubMed's automatic term mapping function is powerful. In this case, it translated "heart attack" into myocardial infarction and "ekg" into electrocardiography. It is also searching for those two synonyms.


Author Search

Search for an author by typing the author's last name, a space, and the first initial and middle initial, if known. Do not use punctuation.

Find a Specific Citation

Search for a citation by typing what you know of the citation into the search box, or use Advanced Search.

Use Filters

Filters allow you to set parameters on your search for more relevant retrieval.

Found on the left side of search results pages, a collection of filters is organized in categories, e.g.,

  • Publication dates
  • Articles types (review article, randomized controlled trial, etc.)
  • Languages

Click on a filter to activate it, then Search to focus your results.

Click Choose additional filters to display more filter categories. Note Journal categories, which includes the Core clinical journals filter. This filter limits results to articles in 119 influential titles.

Warning: Filters remain active on subsequent searches until you Clear them.


Advanced Search

Click the link below the search box to get to the Advanced Search screen.


Search Fields

The Search Builder can streamline complex searches. Use it for Field Searching with over 35 field qualifiers, e.g., Institutional Affiliation, Author, Grant Number,Investigator, Title.

Use the drop-down menus to choose fields. In the example at right, a search for Davis K in the Author field and Mount Sinai in the Affiliation field is added to the query box.

More about field searching (PDF)

field search

Search History

The Search History lists the PubMed searches you have done recently (the searches disappear after 8 hours).

Click on the Items found number to go back to the results for that search.

Click on the Search number to get to the options menu and combine searches, see the search details, or save the search strategy to your personal MyNCBI account.

More about Advanced Search (PDF)



Other Searching Methods


Use MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) to search by subject to focus your search.

E.g. a regular search for "AIDS" retrieves the disease AIDS as well as hearing aids, teaching aids, etc. Selecting the MeSH term for AIDS: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome[MeSH] will limit your retrieval to the relevant subject.

1. Search the MeSH Database
Use the drop-down menu above PubMed's search box to select MeSH, and search for a term.

2. View the MeSH Database's Search Results
If there is more than one possible subject heading matching your search term, these will be listed in a Summary display. Select an appropriate term.

You can now search PubMed with the MeSH heading, or click on the heading to open the MeSH Full display.

3. Select Full Display Options

Option 1:
Select a subheading
from the list near the top of the MeSH full record, if desired. Attaching subheadings to a MeSH term allows you to focus on a specific aspect of the topic.

E.g., this search will be for "epidemiology of AIDs". It will not retrieve articles about the epidemiology of another disease (such as tuberculosis or hepatitis) where AIDs is mentioned peripherally.

Option 2:
Restrict Search to Major Topic headings if you want your topic to be a major focus (not a secondary focus) of the articles you retrieve.

1. Use PubMed's drop-down menu to search the MeSH Database

MeSH search
2. Click on a term in the MeSH results for more options.


MeSH subheadings
3. Full Display options 1, 2 and 3: select a Subheading; Restrict to MeSH Major Topic; Do not include MeSH terms found below this term in the MeSH hierarchy.


Option 3:
Do not include narrower MeSH terms in your search.
Scroll down the Full display page to view Entry Terms, Previous Indexing,and See Also suggestions.

Entry Terms are synonyms or near equivalents to the MeSH term. These words and phrases will usually "map" to the MeSH heading in a PubMed keyword search.

See Also suggestions list related terms and all the subject headings above and below your MeSH term in the MeSH Tree, or hierarchy. Terms listed below your term are narrower, or more specific concepts. Terms listed above are broader.

When PubMed searches for a term, it automatically searches for the narrower, indented concepts in the MeSH tree. Usually you will want to allow this, but you can use the checkbox on the Full Display page to exclude any MeSH terms found below your term.

Mesh Tree
Entry Terms, Previous Indexing, and See Also suggestions, including the MeSH Tree

4. Search PubMed with MeSH

Option 1:
Use the PubMed search builder

After you have checked off subheadings or other options, Click the Add to search builder button. You can search for additional MeSH concepts and add (AND) these terms to the search builder. Then, click Search PubMed to run your MeSH search in PubMed.

Option 2:
Related information
If you do not need to build your search with subheadings and other concepts, you can use the links below the Search Builder. Click PubMed to search using the MeSH term; PubMed-Major Topic to search the term as a major topic heading, or Clinical Queries to search the term using the Clinical Queries EBM filters.

More about MeSH searching (PDF)


4. Use the Search Builder or "All links from this record" to search with MeSH headings and subheadings
Search Builder

Clinical Queries

Find the link to Clinical Queries at the bottom of the PubMed homepage.

The Clinical Studies Categories filter finds reports of research that use the best research methodologies for selected question types (therapy, diagnosis, etiology, prognosis).

Type your search terms in the box and select your question Category and Scope. The search runs automatically.

A search for Systematic Reviews runs at the same time as the Clinical Studies Categories search. This search filters for systematic reviews, meta-analyses, reviews of clinical trials, evidence-based medicine, consensus development conferences, and guidelines.

Clinical Queries

Save Your Results

Use the Send to link to save citations you are interested in to the Clipboard, a temporary holding space. Citations will stay on the Clipboard for 8 hours and you can print them, email them, or export them to RefWorks or EndNote.

Or, create a free MyNCBI account to save lists of citations permanently, as well as save search strategies, create search alerts, and more. To save citations to a MyNCBI account, use the Send to link to save citations in your MyNCBI Collections.


Connect to full-text from PubMed

Display your list of results in Abstract format by clicking on Display Settings and selecting Abstract.

Link to full-text articles provided by the Library by using the blue MSSM LinkOut button and the yellow FIND IT button. The publisher's buttons (e.g. Elsevier, Wiley) will not always work.

More about connecting to full-text

For more tips on searching PubMed:

Visit our interactive PubMed Tutorial for a short course on using PubMed effectively. Practice your searches in PubMed while you are learning about the database.

Librarians are available to support your research. For help with a search, to learn more about PubMed, or to schedule individual assistance, please call (212) 241-7793 or Ask a Librarian.

Last updated August 2012