Searching PubMed

PubMed is a leading database for health sciences research. Because it is developed by the National Library of Medicine, it is freely available on the web, and as such, is a key resource for health professionals throughout their careers.

While PubMed is easy to access from Google, NDSU Libraries have customized parts of PubMed to make searching and accessing articles easier for students and faculty. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you navigate to PubMed through the library website to access these features. Use the "Databases" tab on the library homepage to find the PubMed link in the “Most popular databases” list.

Altermatively, you can go directly to PubMed.

Basic PubMed Searching

Things to Remember:

  • Do not use quotation marks around phrases like nursing homes or hospital acquired infections when searching PubMed.
  • Filters are great for narrowing results, and some of them are hidden in the "additional filters" option.
  • As an NDSU-affiliated user, the "Free Full Text" filter will filter out results that you do have access to through the NDSU Libraries, so it isn't recommended.
PubMed Tips and Tricks

Things to Remember:

  • The "Similar Articles" section is a great option when you're only finding one or two relevant articles through keyword searching.
  • Changing the display settings to "Abstract" will give you more details about and article so you don't have to click on each article separately.
  • Use the "MeSH Terms" menu found in article records to find better keywords if you are having trouble.
MeSH Searching in PubMed

What is MeSH?

MeSH stands for Medical Subject Headings; think of them as sort of "official" keywords used by PubMed. They are helpful when a concept, such as strength training, may be described using a number of different terms. For example, let's say three different authors write articles about strength training; Author 1 uses the term "resistance training," Author 2 uses the term "weight lifting," and Author 3 uses the term "strength training." If you were searching for articles on this topic and only searched with the term "strength training," you could easily miss the other two articles, even though they could be useful.

Using MeSH is a way to avoid this problem. The MeSH term for the concept "strength training" is "resistance training," which means that ALL articles about that topic are assigned that term--even when the authors use other terms, such as "strength training" or "weight lifting," like our authors 2 & 3 did above. And by searching using the MeSH term, you should be able to find all of the articles by the three authors in just one search.

Things to Remember:

  • Access the MeSH database by going to the PubMed homepage.
  • Make sure to get as specific as possible when using MeSH terms--check the MeSH tree to see if there is a better term for you to use.
  • The option to "Restrict to MeSH Major Topic" means that the results will all have the MeSH term as a main focus.
  • Subheadings can also help focus the search. Click the subheadings link to get definitions.
  • Try, try again: MeSH searching takes practice!

Also check out these tutorials from the National Library of Medicine for further information: