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PubMed - an Introduction

An introduction to and guide for using PubMed - from basic research queries to in depth, personalized information discovery.

What is PubMed

The PubMed database, developed and maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), contains more than 34 million citations and abstracts of biomedical literature.

It does not include full text journal articles; however, links to the full text are often present when available from other sources, such as the publisher's website or PubMed Central (PMC). NYU Langone affiliates who connect to PubMed through the NYU Health Sciences Library can also get access to full text articles from the Library’s subscriptions.

Content included in PubMed

PubMed includes citations from three different National Library of Medicine resources. MEDLINE is comprised of citations from journals that have been selected for inclusion and indexed with NLM Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)PubMed Central (PMC) contains publically available full text articles archived by the National Library of Medicine. These include peer reviewed journal articles and author-submitted manuscripts, as well as preprints. PubMed also includes citations from Bookshelf, an archive of books and documents related to life sciences and healthcare. An unfiltered search in PubMed may retrieve citations from all three resources.

MEDLINE via PubMed

Through the NYU Health Sciences Library, you can access MEDLINE records through both PubMed and Ovid. Due to differences in interface and structure, identical searches in both databases may yield different results. These can be due to a number of factors:

  • A general PubMed search will retrieve records from PubMed Central and Bookshelf in addition to MEDLINE. Use the Medline filter in PubMed if you want to limit your search to just records from MEDLINE.
  • The syntax and symbols used for searching differ between database platforms.
  • Medline records in both PubMed and Ovid update regularly, but there is a slight delay to Ovid MEDLINE updates compared to PubMed.

PubMed applies automatic term mapping to searches, leading to higher sensitivity of results. For searches requiring more precision and control, Ovid MEDLINE may be preferred, or automatic term mapping can be disabled in PubMed by using search field tags.

Why use PubMed

  • PubMed is one of the premier databases for medical and health sciences literature.
  • PubMed is free and publicly available for anyone to search.
  • Automated term mapping and other search enhancements enable quick retrieval of relevant literature citations.