Skip to Main Content

PubMed - an Introduction

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

combine terms with Boolean operators

In order to retrieve relevant results, it is best to group synonyms in parenthesis with a capital OR (to capture different phrasing of the same concept) and connect different concepts with a capital AND (to capture only results that include all of your concepts together). These are known as Boolean operators.

  • You can enter search terms in the default basic search bar:

a screenshot of a basic PubMed search with the strategy: (children OR juveniles OR minors) AND (epilepsy OR seizures OR convulsions) AND (marijuana OR cannabis)

  • Or use the Advanced Search for more control:

a screenshot of an advanced PubMed search combining separate queries

  • The Advanced Search Builder in PubMed gives you the option to apply boolean operators from a menu.

a screenshot of an advanced PubMed search with dropdown menu displaying boolean operators (OR, AND, NOT)

  • PubMed will not recognize lowercase “and” or “or” as Boolean operators, so make sure you capitalize them when you want to combine, include, or exclude search terms.

Field tags

To improve precision in keyword searching, consider using field tags, which specify which parts of the record to search. For example, a search for kidney[tiab] would retrieve all records that include the word “kidney” in the title or abstract fields, and would not automatically apply any additional terms.

  • Note that Advanced Searching lets you specify which fields you would like to search, which is helpful if you are searching for a specific item or want to limit your search to just Titles and Abstracts, for example.

a screenshot showing an advanced PubMed search with drop down menu displaying list of field tags


Search for phrases and partial words

To search for specific phrases in PubMed (rather than individual words) put quotation marks around the phrase you want. 

A PubMed search for "medical marijuana" will retrieve a smaller, more focused set of results than a search for medical marijuana

screenshot of a search for medical marijuana with over 8009 results compared with a search for "medical marijuana" with 2878 results

You can use truncation to search for multiple possible endings to a partial word, but ending the partial word with an asterisk (*). 

For example, a search for child* will return searches for children, childhood, and other terms beginning with "child". 

Note that both phrase searching and truncation will disable automatic term mapping and MeSH terms will not automatically be applied to the search.