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Nursing program: Research skills: Searching PubMed

Provides starting points for research in TCC's Nursing Program

What is PubMed?

Find more than 30 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content (i.e. not all articles will be available to you)

Explore PubMed:

PubMed tutorial:

How do I search PubMed?

  • Enter your search terms in the single search box provided at the top of the page then click Search. NOTE: PubMed automatically puts the Boolean operator AND between search terms. Here is a sample search for articles about renal failure and kidney transplants:

  • When you get your list of results, use the filters on the left side of the screen to narrow your results to Free full text. You may also want to narrow your results to the last 5 years, so that you are looking at the most current information on your research topic. Use the Article types filter to narrow to Clinical Trial and/or Randomized Controlled Trial for unfiltered/primary/original research articles or to Review, Systematic Review, and/or Meta-analysis for filtered/secondary sources.

  • Now click on the drop down menu by Display Settings, select Abstract, and click Apply. This will allow you to see the abstracts for each of the articles in your result list.



  • Here is what a result looks like. The Abstract will give you a good sense of whether or not a particular article will be relevant to your research. Click on the links at the bottom of the record to access the full text.


MeSH thesaurus

Because medical terminology can differ quite a bit from lay terminology, you may wish to search the MeSH thesaurus (the National Library of Medicine’s controlled vocabulary thesaurus used for indexing articles for PubMed) before you begin searching to ensure the best and most relevant results.

PubMed syntax

The syntax (proper way to construct a search “sentence”) in PubMed is: search term[field abbreviation]. In other words, the search term, no space, square brackets enclosing the abbreviation for the requested field. For example if I wanted the database to search for articles where the word diabetes is the subject of the article (not just a keyword), and the words nurse or nursing are also the subject I would type:

diabetes[mh] nurs*[mh]

These are the abbreviations for the most commonly used fields and search strategies:

Field name

Abbreviation for use in searching



Title of article


Title of journal or “source” (exact)




MeSH subject heading


MeSH subject heading—“major”


Wildcard symbol *

Use only in “keyword” searches

Phrase search (words in exact order)

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