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Searching Biomedical Literature Using PubMed

Searching PubMed can be a intimidating task, especially when it comes to researching complex topics. A good place to familiarize yourself with the terminology is PubMed User Guide

PubMed: The Basics

Below are a few essential tips to help you improve your PubMed searches.

Boolean Operators
AND, OR, NOT – are used to combine search terms, and in PubMed, they must be in UPPERCASE
  • AND is used when you’re looking for articles that contain ALL of your search terms (narrows your search).
  • OR is used when you’re looking for articles containing at least one of your search terms (broadens your search; often used for synonyms).
  • NOT is used when you want articles that EXCLUDE your search term.

Use * to replace one or more characters at the end of your search term. This can be very useful if you’re doing a broad search and will accept multiple forms of your search term, including plurals.

Single Citation Matcher

PubMed has a handy tool if you’re trying to locate a specific reference: the single citation matcher. A fast way to use it is to start entering the journal name (a menu of possible titles pops up), the publication year, and the last name of the first author (restricting choices to “only as first author”).

Article Type

Anytime you search on PubMed, the default results page is for “All” results. If you only want specific type of article, say peer review articles only, you can narrow your search to this particular type.

PubMed: Beyond the Basics

Open Access Articles and Books

Internet Archive

Hundreds of thousands of free full-text titles covering a wide range of fiction, popular books, children's books, historical texts and academic books. Can view in many file formats, including: PDF, ePUB, Kindle, Daisy, DiVu, HTML.

HathiTrust Digital Library

HathiTrust is a partnership of academic and research institutions, offering a collection of over 3 million public domain free full-text books (over 7 million with snippet views) digitized from libraries around the world.

National Academies Press

You must create a free account in order to access their free full-text content
Publishes over 200 reports per year from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, The Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. Contains over 4,000 titles which can be downloaded by chapter or in its entirety in PDF format, or read online by chapter in HTML format..

Citation Management

These tools help you store and organize lots of references, and format bibliographies and papers in specific citation styles
Zotero is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share research.
  • Free, open-source
  • Multiple browser add-on or standalone
  • Easy to learn
  • Store PDFs
  • Highlight text and take notes
  • Tag records
  • MS Word plug-in
Bibliography organizes your citations and references, export or share a collaborative bibliography. Must create free account.
  • Free, open-source
  • Chrome add-on or standalone
  • Easy to learn
  • Store PDFs
  • Highlight text and take notes
  • Copy All and Paste
  • Download to MS Word
MyBib Generate formatted bibliographies and citations; cite works automatically.
  • Free, open-source
  • Chrome browser add-on or stand alone
  • Easy to learn
  • Store PDFs
  • Copy All and Paste
  • Export citations into other citation managers
  • MS Word plug-in
Mendeley is a free web and desktop reference management application maintained by Elsevier
  • Free
  • Must be installed on computer
  • Easy to learn
  • Manage PDFs / Extract citation info from PDFs
  • See what others are reading and citing

Still can't find what you're looking for?

Feel free to contact us, and we can answer any questions you may have, or if you prefer our Reference Librarian to conduct a customized search on your topic, please fill the Librarian Research Help Form