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Provides resources, strategies, and information on conducting research in Epidemiology.

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 strategy in PubMed search bar


Search Results

Your results are listed on the Search Results page.

Search results page in PubMed

You can see that there are many results, including some that are not related to the question.

Search Tip - "Search Details"

What if your search results are not quite what you expected or they seem really off-base?  On the Advanced page (link right below the search bar), check Search Details, to see how PubMed "translated" your search.

Search Details on the Advanced page. 

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.

The Translations section of Search Details

Look at how some terms were "translated," for example, dietary intake mapped to eating.  This is why the search results are so far off topic.  We'll need to revise the search.

Revising Your Search

Putting dietary intake and food intake in quotation marks

("dietary intake" OR "food intake") AND (dairy products OR milk OR cheese OR yogurt)

will restrict this part of the search to those phrases.  The phrases won't map to MeSH terms, but may provide a more focused set of results.

And that's exactly what happens.

Search results page from revised search.

Because there are still so many results, add United States to the search: 

("dietary intake" OR "food intake") AND (dairy products OR milk OR cheese OR yogurt) AND United States

Search Tip - Keeping Recent Articles in Your Search

To be sure that you're seeing the most recent articles on your topic in PubMed, change the default (Best Match) to Most Recent.

PubMed's Display Options.

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/EnglishAges/Adolescent will also be useful in this search.
  • Some filters are always readily available:  Article type, Text Availability (which you should ignore while you're at Michigan), Publication dates.  Others you must add to the filters list.
  • To add Language, Age, & other types of filters, click on the Additional filters link below the filter list. In the box that opens, select the category of filter & then the specific filters. 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.
  • Remember to clear all filters when you do a new search.

Message about search filters that have been applied.

Finally, if you want to see more recent articles, add a date filter.  Limiting this search to the last 5 years gives 30 results, a reasonable set of results to look through.