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An overview of the PubMed search interface

Basic Searching in PubMed

Input search terms into the main search box without commas or any other punctuation. Unless you tell it otherwise, PubMed assumes that you want to find articles containing ALL the terms in your search. Here's an example:

pulmonary embolism coumadin heparin - looks for ALL these terms in the search as if there was an AND in between the terms

pulmonary embolism (coumadin OR heparin) - looks for pulmonary embolism in combination with either coumadin OR heparin. The results of this search will be larger than the results of the first example because we're not requiring the search to include all three concepts, just one and a choice of one of the others.

Search Details

Use Details to:

  • See exactly how PubMed searches the terms that you typed or selected.
  • Determine which MeSH terms can be used to describe your topic.

To access Details, navigate to the Advanced Search window through under the search boxImage shows a purple arrow pointing to the Advanced link on the new PubMed search results page.

From the Advanced search page, scroll to the bottom and locate your search query. Select Details to view the search details.

Purple arrow pointing to details

Select the arrow to review the search details.

Search details for PubMed query

Details will show how the search terms you entered were translated into MeSH terms and keywords. In the example below, note that "coumadin" was translated to the MeSH term "warfarin". The concept "pulmonary embolism" was searched as a MeSH term, and as a phrase within all fields of the database but the individual terms "pulmonary" and "embolism" were also split and searched in all database fields. You will also notice various word forms were searched for each term (e.g. "heparin" also searches "heparinization" or "heparinze"). To make your search more precise, you can edit the terms by copying and pasting the search into the search query box. Removing terms with the [All Fields] tag can reduce the number of search results considerably. 

Author Searching

To search for an author in PubMed, enter the last name and first initial in the search box with no punctuation, e.g. miller j
Handy tip: use the square bracketed [AU] field tag to confine an author search to the author field in PubMed records, e.g. miller j[au]


Example of an author search that reads: miller j[au].

PubMed truncates the search to include varying middle initials and designations such as Jr. If you know the middle initial, add it to refine your search. You can search for more than one author at a time.

For citations from 2002 on, you can also use the entire first name of the author. If an author's first name might also be a last name, use a comma after the last name, e.g. ryan, james searches for James Ryan rather than Ryan James.

You can also use the Search Builder on the Advanced Search page or Single Citation Matcher to search for authors.