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Neuroscience: Searching PubMed

Life Science Librarian

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Greg Nelson
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PubMed Basics from NCBI (Tri-fold PDF)

Tips for Refining a PubMed Search

Search field operators called Boolean Operators will help to narrow or broaden out a search. In PubMed, operators should be written in ALL CAPS.

 

AND 

The AND operator conjoins two search terms. Each of the search terms or associated concepts must be somewhere in the record. You will have fewer search results.

Search terms Results
cardiovascular disease

2,418,733

chocolate

4,743

Combining the two terms with an AND narrows the search results
cardiovascular disease AND chocolate

368

OR

The OR operator links two or more search terms separated with the 'OR'. At least one of the search terms must be somewhere in the record. You will have more search results.

Search terms Results
chocolate

4,743

cacao

3,520

Combining the two terms with an OR broadens the search results
chocolate OR cacao

6,801

Nested Searching

A search that uses multiple terms, usually with an "OR" separating the terms, in conjunction with an "AND", should contain the OR'ed terms within parenthesis.

Search terms Results
chocolate OR cacao

6,801

cardiovascular disease 2,418,733
Refining a search by combining the AND and OR operators
cardiovascular disease AND (chocolate OR cacao)

526

Field Descriptions and Tags

One way to narrow a broad search is to add a field tag that indicates to PubMed exactly where you want it to look for your keyword. Two of the most useful field tags are [title] and [title/abstract]. PubMed will only look in those locations for your exact keyword or phrase.

Search terms Results
chocolate [title]

1,335

 cacao [title/abstract] 1,059
 chocolate [title] OR cacao [title/abstract] 2,331
Refining a search as above with the title and title/abstract tags
cardiovascular disease AND (chocolate [title] OR cacao [title/abstract])

217

 

PubMed Simple Subject Search Tutorials and Videos