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Pharmacy and Pharmacology

Provides resources, strategies, and information on conducting research in pharmacy & pharmacology.

Why Search PubMed?



PubMed is the free interface for the premier biomedical database, MEDLINE.  It was created & is maintained by the National Library of Medicine.  PubMed contains both primary & secondary literature.  Because it's a free to access, you can use it even when you leave the University of Michigan.

Articles in PubMed are indexed by MeSH (Medical Subject Headings), terms that have specific definitions within the database & help you to create more focused searches.

Running a Search

Enter your search terms, using synonyms, parentheses, & Boolean operators, in the main search bar at the top of the PubMed window, & click the Search button.

Search Results

Your results are listed on the Search Results page.

You can see that there are many results, including some that are not related to the question.  While you will never construct a search that only gives you appropriate results, this search may use terms that are too broad.

Revising Your Search

Here are the results: Cardiac Surgical Procedures was the best term to use in this search, not because there are fewer results (though there are), but because the results are better focused on the topic.

(cardiac surgery OR heart surgery) AND (amiodarone OR adrenergic beta-antagonists OR beta blockers) AND (arrhythmias)

(cardiac surgical procedures) AND (amiodarone OR adrenergic beta-antagonists OR beta blockers) AND (arrhythmias)

Focusing Your Search with Filters

Filters, which can be found on the left side of the Search Results page, can help you focus your search appropriately.  Categories include Article types, Publication dates, Species, Languages, & Ages.

  • Two filters that are almost always useful are Species/Humans (unless you're looking specifically for animal research) and Language/English.
  • These filters are always readily available:  Article type, Text Availability (which you should ignore while you're at Michigan), Publication dates, &  Species.  First, click Humans to add that filter to the search.
  • To add Languages, Age, & other types of filters, click on the Show additional filters link above or below the filter list. Check the filters you want to add, then click the Show button to make the filters appear on the screen.  Next choose the filter(s) you want to add.
  • When you apply filters, they appear above your search results.  You can clear a filter by clicking the name of the filter or the Clear link, or clear all at the top of the results.
  • For this question, because you're interested in the effectiveness of a treatment, Randomized Controlled Trials or Systematic Reviews are good Article type filters to consider. 
  • Finally, a date range of the last 5 years will give the most recent literature.
  • Remember to clear all filters when you do a new search.

Search Tip - Keeping Recent Articles in Your Search

Before you add filters, be sure to look through your results to find citations that haven't been indexed yet.  They will be marked as [PubMed - as supplied by publisher] or [PubMed - in process].  These articles are found only through keyword searching.

If you find any articles that are of interest, either look at them immediately or save them to the Clipboard, a temporary holding space, so that you can look at them later.  Use the Send to link in the upper right & select Clipboard.  Items in the Clipboard are available for the length of your session in PubMed, up to 8 hours.

Search Tip - "Search Details"

What if your search results are not quite what you expected or they seem really off-base?  Check Search Details, on the Advanced page, which shows you how PubMed "translated" your search.



PubMed - Search Details - detail

If at least one term for each concept in your search doesn't map to a MeSH term, you should rethink your search terms or contact the library for help.


Look at how some terms were "translated": both heart surgery & cardiac surgery map to the MeSH terms thoracic surgery & cardiac surgical procedures You could revise the search to include only thoracic surgery, or you could leave both terms in, which would allow you to take advantage of the MeSH term, while also gaining results from the keyword searching of both phrases.  Rerun the search with thoracic surgery only & compare the results with a search using cardiac surgical procedures to see which gives you the best results.

Search Tip - Should You Use Quotation Marks?

Sometimes, you'll need to search for a phrase rather than a word.  If you use quotation marks around the the phrase, you could run into problems.  Using quotation marks can mean that no part of that phrase will map to a MeSH term, so you may miss important articles.  On the other hand, sometimes quotation marks can help your search, especially if there is no relevant MeSH term for a concept. 

For example, dietary intake doesn't map to a MeSH term; instead, dietary is searched as a keyword, & mapped to diet & intake is mapped as a separate keyword & MeSH term.  This results in thousands of inappropriate results.  When "dietary intake" is searched as a phrase, you get a smaller number of highly relevant results.

Quotation marks can also be used to search phrases as keywords, even when a MeSH term exists.  For example, in PubMed, vegan maps to the MeSH term  Diet, Vegtarian. In addition to using vegan as a keyword, you can also use "plant-based diet" as a keyword phrase.