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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

PubMed: Advanced Search

A guide to using the PubMed database.

Advanced Search

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PubMed's Advanced Search Builder provides multiple search boxes to add concepts. Type your search term into the search bar, then add the term to your query box by selecting "add," or by choosing a Boolean operator from the "add" drop-down menu. Features of the advanced search include:

  • Field Search: Narrow your search by selecting a search field such as author, date, ISBN, type of material, title/abstract, subject, and more.
  • Boolean Operators: Limit, broaden, or eliminate search terms using AND, OR, and NOT. AND limits search results, finding articles with both terms; OR broadens results, finding articles with either term; and NOT eliminates terms from the results, finding articles with one term but not the other.
  • Index List: An ’index list’ for browsing is available on the right side of the search box for all terms in the database for the selected field.
  • Save/Preview Search: Click “Add to history” instead of “Search” to save the search for later use in the same session. This button can also be used to preview the number of results in a search before displaying the full search results.

Advanced search is useful when you want to narrow your search down to specific terms, or when you want to search multiple terms at once. To access, click the "Advanced" link under Basic Search search bar.

Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)

Medical Subject Headings are another approach to advanced searching. All fully indexed records have MeSH as-signed. Look up official MeSH terms to view hierarchical relationships to other subject headings and subheadings. MeSH features include:

  • MeSH Database: You can select the MeSH database in the drop down box next to the search bar to search MeSH terms. A search of “pressure ulcer” in the MeSH database will show you all related terms such as bed sores, “Decubitus Ulcers”, etc. It will also show all subcategories of the term and related parent categories.
  • MeSH Terms: NLM's Medical Subject Headings (field tag: [mh]) are a list of biomedical terms which are used to describe the sub-ject of each journal article indexed in MEDLINE. The [majr] tag retrieves all MeSH terms that are marked as being of major importance in an article. Use either search field tag to search.
  • MeSH Translation Table: The MeSH Translation Table contains all MeSH terms, “See-Reference” mappings (aka “entry terms”), Subhead-ings, publication types, pharmacologic action terms, and Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) terms.
  • MeSH Automatic Term Mapping: Search terms that do not have field tags added are automatically matched (in this order and until found) to MeSH, journals, full author, author index, and full investigator (collaborator) “translation tables.”
  • MeSH Explode Feature: MeSH terms are automatically exploded by PubMed; that is, all identified terms which are logical subsets of the term entered are also included. For instance, “vision disorder” will also search “blindness.”