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PubMed: Run a Search

Tips and instructions for finding articles in PubMed.

Step-by-Step Instructions


Step 1: Enter Your Terms


Type any key word or phrase into the Search box. Use an asterisk (*) to retrieve variations on a word, e.g., bacter* retrieves bacteria, bacterium, bacteriophage, etc.

  • For a Subject Search: Enter one or more words (e.g., asthma drug therapy) in the Search box and click on Search. PubMed automatically "ANDs" (combines) terms together so that all terms or concepts are present, and it translates your words into MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) terms.
  • For an Author Search: Enter the author's name in the format of last name first followed by initials (e.g., byrnes ca) in either the Search box or search by author on the Advanced Search Builder page.
  • For a Journal Search: To retrieve articles from a specific journal, use Journals in NCBI Databases or Single Citation Matcher features (available on the PubMed homepage).

Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) to combine topics in the Search box. Boolean operators should be entered in UPPERCASE and are processed from left to right. Change the order by using parentheses.

Example: osteoporosis AND (drug therapy OR exercise)   If desired use the Search Builder feature on the Advanced Search page.


Step 2: Click on the Search Button to Run Your Search


Step 3: Set Your Filters 

Use the sidebar filters to restrict your results by language, article type, date, or subset of PubMed, e.g., nursing journals, cancer or bioethics.

  • To add additional filter categories to the sidebar, click the “Choose additional filters” link, select the additional categories, and then click apply.

  • When filters are selected a Filters activated message will display on the results page.

  • Note: Filters remain in place until you change or remove them. Limits other than language or date will exclude NEW records that are "in process" or "supplied by Publisher."
  • To turn off filters, click either the “Clear all” link to remove all the filters, the “clear” link next to a filter category to clear the selections within that category, or the individual filter.


Step 4: View Your Results 

At the top of your results list you see the Limits Activated for your search and Filter Your Results.

PubMed citations are displayed in Summary format, 20 at a time, "last in, first out", except results that retrieve a single citation which will display the Abstract view. You can change the display for all by selecting a new display format from the Format drop down menu.  For our example we choose Abstract format so you can see if the pdf is available VT or free.

Summary format
Short bibliographic citation.
Abstract format
Bibliographic citation plus abstract of the article and the first 5 Related Articles. Use also for links to full text.
MEDLINE format
Full citation tagged with field labels. Use for importing into bibliographic citation programs such as EndNote, Mendeley or Zotero.


Step 5: Connect to Full Text, Print, Save, or Email Your Citation List or ordering articles



Links to Full text Documents: Display references (either all of them or the marked citations) in Abstract format. If the UW Article Online button appears, Click on it. It will lead you to the full text.  If no Get VText icon appears, fill out an ILLiad Interlibrary loan request.  NOTE: Interlibrary loan access is restricted to students currently enrolled at VTCSOM, Virginia Tech or faculty and staff currently employed by Virginia Tech.

Print: Using the Display Settings link, select the format of the references, place all your references on one web page, and click Apply. Use your browser's Print command. 

Save: From the Send To link, select File, choose Format and Sort order, and click the Create File button. When prompted by the operating system, provide a name and appropriate extension for your file.  

E-mail: From the Send To link, select E-mail, choose Format, Sort order, add email and additional information, and click the E-mail button. 

Citation Manager:  To send citrations to EndNote, Mendeley, etc. select Citation Manager under Send to. For more information see the Export to Citation Managers tab.

Clipboard:   The Clipboard acts as a temporary holding file for all citations collected during your online session. Use the Send to link to save to Clipboard. Click on the Clipboard link on the right side of the Results page to retrieve all citations on your Clipboard.  Results on the Clipboard will be lost after 8 hours of inactivity. 

Order articles:  If you can't find a full text article then you will need to order it ILLiad Interlibrary Loan.  NOTE: Interlibrary loan access is restricted to students currently enrolled at VTCSOM, Virginia Tech or faculty and staff currently employed by Virginia Tech.

Step 6: Document Your Strategy 

Click on Download History link on the Advanced Search screen. Either you can print the screen using your browser or click on the Download HIstory link to save your Search History for future reference.