Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Database Tutorials

This LibGuide contains step by step instructions for majority of research databases available in the Wolfgram collection.

PubMed

About this Database

PubMed is a free resource supporting the search and retrieval of biomedical and life sciences literature with the aim of improving health–both globally and personally.

The PubMed database contains more than 34 million citations and abstracts of biomedical literature. Widener University provides access to the full-text of many of these articles.  They can be accessed when you begin your PubMed searches from our A to Z Databases List or the navigation link below.

PubMed was developed and is maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), at the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), located at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

PubMed facilitates searching across several NLM literature resources:

  • MEDLINE: MEDLINE is the largest component of PubMed and consists primarily of citations from journals selected for MEDLINE; articles indexed with MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) and curated with funding, genetic, chemical and other metadata.  Widener University provides access to MEDLINE, you can learn more about this resource in the MEDLINE database tutorial.
  • PubMed Central (PMC): PMC is a full text archive that includes articles from journals reviewed and selected by NLM for archiving (current and historical), as well as individual articles collected for archiving in compliance with funder policies.
  • Bookshelf: Bookshelf is a full text archive of books, reports, databases, and other documents related to biomedical, health, and life sciences.

PubMed Search Strategies

The basic search strategy for PubMed is best for researchers looking at a topic for the first time.  It also takes less time and planning than advanced searching.  Often, for assignments that require 5 or fewer sources, this search strategy is sufficient.  if you aren't finding results using this method, I advise referring to the PubMed User Guide or trying the advanced search strategy.

Step 1: Pick your search terms

Before you begin searching, think about the terms you want to use.  Take a moment to brainstorm any potential synonyms for your search terms.  Is there a more technical term used by people in the field?  Are there brand name or generic options?  Is there a word that may have been used in the past but is now considered outdated?  Write or type these terms before moving to step 2.

Step 2: Enter your search terms

The PubMed homepage is a single search bar interface.  You can select the "Advanced" link under the search bar for an advanced interface.  Enter the terms selected in step 1 to find related results.

PubMed homepage with search bar

Step 3: Filter your results

This is an important step.  Your assignments often have publication date limits and require peer-reviewed academic journal articles.  The "My NCBI Filters" menu on the left of the search interface is where you can use these limits to filter your results.

PubMed search results interface with limit menu highlighted

The PubMed Advanced Search Builder is best for researchers who are more familiar with their topic or who haven't found the results they needed using the basic search strategy.  This is the preferred search method for post-graduate researchers or researchers working on review or analysis assignments.

Step 1: Pick your search terms

Before you begin searching, think about the terms you want to use.  Take a moment to brainstorm any potential synonyms for your search terms.  Is there a more technical term used by people in the field?  Are there brand name or generic options?  Is there a word that may have been used in the past but is now considered outdated?  Write or type these terms before moving to step 2.

Step 2: Use MeSH Subject Headings

Databases are built like social media platforms.  They use hashtags to group items that relate to the same topic.  In databases, we call these tags "Subject Headings."  PubMed gives users the ability to search through their hashtags to find the ones that connect all of the papers on your topic of interest.  We access this information by using the MeSH Subject Heading Search Interface provided by the NLM.

Search for your term and read the entry to check the definition and add the term to the PubMed Search Builder on the right menu.

MeSH Search Interface with example entry

Step 3: Using the Advanced Search Builder

Tools included on the Advanced Search page help users to: search for terms in a specific field, combine searches and build large, complex search strings, see how each query was translated by PubMed, and compare number of results for different queries.

Use this video tutorial from the NLM for detailed instructions

Step 4: Filter your results

This is an important step.  Your assignments often have publication date limits and require peer-reviewed academic journal articles.  The "My NCBI Filters" menu on the left of the search interface is where you can use these limits to filter your results.

PubMed results interface with filters highlighted