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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

PubMed: Basic Search

A guide to using the PubMed database.

Basic Search

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Use the search bar at the top of the PubMed home screen. Combine key concepts in one search box. You can add search field tags (such as [au] for author); combine or limit terms with Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT); use quotations to define phrases; and truncate (*) terms to broaden your search.

Search Tips

  • Choose specific terms that are closely related to your research topic, including terms you might use when discussing your topic with a colleague such as jargon, synonyms, and abbreviations.
  • PubMed searches are not case sensitive.
  • Use Boolean operators to limit, broaden, or eliminate terms from your search:
    • AND limits search results, finding articles with both terms
    • OR broadens results, finding articles with either term
    • NOT eliminates terms from the results, finding articles with one term but not the other
  • Use truncation to broaden your search field by placing an asterisk (*) after the root of your term. This allows PubMed to search across all possible terms with that root (e.g. bacter* returns bacteria, bacterial, bacterium, etc.). Be aware that truncation turns off automatic term mapping that searches for Medical Subject Headings (MeSH).